STEM education project receives continued funding

February 16, 2017
Dr. Jodean Grunow
Dr. Tim Deis

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – As the number of jobs in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields rises – a 14 percent increase is estimated between 2010-20, according to the U.S. Department of Education – so, too, has the push for K-12 teachers to integrate STEM concepts in their classrooms. With its “Intelligent Integration of STEM Components to Build Effective Educators and Proficient Students” project, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville is helping K-12 districts and teachers across the state achieve this goal. The project – funded by a University of Wisconsin System grant, under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Title IIA, Wisconsin Improving Teacher Quality Program – was recently awarded continued funding for a third year.

Under the direction of Dr. Tim Deis, mathematics professor, and Dr. Jodean Grunow, senior mathematics lecturer, the project offers professional development to area K-12 teachers through a series of two-week summer institutes on campus. The initial grant began in spring 2015 and extends through this summer. The recently-awarded continuation of grant funding, in the amount of $85,675, will extend the program through summer 2018. The program serves approximately 50 teachers, who represent 15 school districts across Wisconsin.

“It is imperative that we, as a country, continue to have people who can handle the math required in our society,” said Grunow. “And our society requires a huge amount of math and it just keeps growing. It pervades our life.”

The grant helps K-12 professionals address felt needs and STEM expectations in their districts. Participants are encouraged to develop action research projects that focus on district, school or classroom concerns; identify participants, timelines and resources; implement those plans and evaluate success of the endeavors. Likewise, they are charged with developing and enacting rich and challenging STEM investigations.

According to Grunow, one of the unique benefits of the grant is the cross-departmental collaboration it allows for on campus. Exploring the themes of crime scene investigation, health and wellness, and agriculture during the previous institutes allowed for integration of visits to UW-Platteville’s Forensic Investigation Crime Scene House, eye lab, cadaver lab, and Pioneer Farm. The program also builds connections with resources within local communities. Additional field trips included the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque, Iowa; Upland Hills Health in Dodgeville, Wisconsin; Epic in Verona, Wisconsin; and Krone America, in Platteville.

The project also presents opportunities to foster relationships with experts in the field. Participants work with consultants from the Department of Public Instruction as well as national experts such as Karim Ani from Mathalicious and Sandy Atkins from Creating Ah-has. According to Grunow, this keeps the program relevant and has immeasurable benefits. “One of our goals is to always stay one step ahead of the game, and know what is coming down the pike,” explained Grunow. “This benefits our current pre-service students at UW-Platteville too; when they go out to classrooms they are speaking the same language because we are working with experts in national and state mandates.”

Participants have returned to their districts with missions of developing and implementing their own STEM investigations. Those investigations were then videoed and shared during a grant reporting session.

“The feedback we have heard has been extremely positive,” said Grunow. “When teachers first came in, they knew they had to do STEM, but they weren’t sure what to do with it. When they came back the second semester, they had implemented STEM activities in their classes and were so enthusiastic about it. They had really gained in their understanding of STEM and teaching it. With the continued funding, participants are looking forward to another year of motivational, challenging and worthwhile endeavors.”

The grant award letter from Stephen Kolison, associate vice president for Academic Programs and Educational Innovation at UW System, highlighted the competitive and selective process for receiving this grant, stating, “Your project … has been selected for funding under the WEITQ program … It was recommended for funding by a broadly based team of expert reviewers representing Wisconsin’s K-12 schools, University of Wisconsin System institutions, and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Your institution and the project personnel should be commended for your success in this competitive process.”

Written by: Alison Parkins, University Relations Specialist, Communications, 608-342-1194, parkinsal@uwplatt.edu.

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