Science grad students stimulate learning by K-12 students

May 30, 2002

Interest in science and mathematics among elementary, middle and high school students will be stimulated this fall by graduate students using hands-on, experiment-based projects funded by the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12) program.

NSF will provide $21 million in new three-year grants that will enable about 300 talented graduate and advanced undergraduate students in science, mathematics, engineering and technology to share their enthusiasm for learning by serving as teaching fellows in 18 states from Maine to California.

Under GK-12, institutions are responsible for recruiting fellows from their campuses. Graduate students in the program receive annual stipends of $21,500, plus a cost-of-education allowance. Undergraduate students receive as much as $5,000 per academic year, plus up to an additional $5,000 for teaching and other activities during the summer.

The program, initiated in 1999, has drawn enthusiastic praise from teachers. "Students get a sense that the science they're learning is important and see that a career in science is feasible," said one teacher in San Francisco. The GK-12 fellow "brings to the classroom more experiments, more projects and more knowledge than I have," a teacher in Nashville said.

The program encourages graduate students to increase their communication skills by sharing science and mathematics expertise. By working with teachers, they are able to bring inquiry-based projects into the classroom and provide added perspectives on the importance of science, mathematics, engineering and technology.

The projects vary greatly depending on the interests of teachers, their students, and the fellows. They are often linked to curricular standards, to help students prepare for state achievement tests.

In one recent project, a fellow co-authored with a teacher a curriculum to help students understand physics through examining roller coasters. In another, a university established a Bio-Bus program, in which a 30-foot mobile laboratory was sent into rural areas to provide hands-on science activities and demonstrations. In another, engineering fellows worked with students to develop hands-on projects to study the laws of motion, electricity, and energy.

"The GK-12 program is successful because both students and teachers benefit from the opportunity to work with graduate students who are excited about science and math and who share the enthusiasm by involving students and teachers in hands-on experiences in science and math," said Judith Ramaley, NSF's assistant director for education and human resources. "The subjects come alive in new ways. In return, the graduate students develop a new enthusiasm for education and differently about themselves as educators."
Media contact: William Harms (703) 292-8070/

Program contact: John Jackson (703) 292-5197/

National Science Foundation

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