Grant partners USF and local schools in STEM education

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News release from the University of Saint Francis:

Grant partners USF and local schools in STEM education

(March 16, 2011) The University of Saint Francis (USF) has received a $116,000 grant from the Talent Initiative to support local education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The Talent Initiative (TI), established by a $20 million Lilly Endowment grant, is a 10-county regional program focused on accelerating STEM education and training initiatives. The goal is to increase the base of highly skilled workers to meet the needs of the  defense/aerospace and advanced manufacturing industries, while reversing the current decline in regional per capita income. Of the $20 million, $2.3 million was earmarked for professional development efforts centered on STEM curricula and project-based learning (PBL) in public and private schools in northeast Indiana.

The USF project will introduce the university’s Department of Education and Department of Science instructors and majors and partner teachers at Fort Wayne-area Catholic elementary schools and Adams Central School District to project-based STEM learning.

Adams Central School Corp. Superintendent Mike Pettibone looks forward to the partnership and what it will mean for his middle and elementary school students. “We will use this to introduce PBL to some of our middle and upper elementary school teachers and work with the University of Saint Francis to develop a project with which the Department of Science will assist,” he said. “We’re excited because it can introduce our teachers and kids to PBL and also develop a relationship with USF and other school districts.”

USF faculty and students will be involved on another level. “Our teachers will work with the USF science and education departments, who want to know what Adams Central High School is doing as a New Tech High School. With New Tech, (another TI-funded opportunity), we sent teachers to intense summer training paid by Lilly, and we can share some of that training with USF’s Department of Education. If they want to send students to watch us teach problem-based learning, they can do that.”

Marsha Jordan, associate superintendent for the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, detailed the benefits of the partnership to Catholic schools. “The STEM education partnership will benefit Catholic schools by providing ongoing professional development in PBL as a method to help teachers raise student achievement in STEM,” she said. “USF science and math faculty will address the knowledge gap in STEM, focusing on teachers of grades 4-8, as well as students planning to become elementary and middle school teachers who have little or no specialized STEM training.”

“We are pleased that this Talent Initiative grant gives us an opportunity to enhance STEM education in our area while benefitting educators at USF and our partner schools,” said USF President M. Elise Kriss, OSF. “STEM education is the best tool to equip all students for the challenges of our changing world.”

“We were so pleased to see how many partnerships were formed as a result of this grant opportunity, and the University of Saint Francis’ collaboration with Adams Central Community Schools and regional Catholic schools is a good example,” said Talent Initiative Director Leonard Helfrich. “This type of regional collaboration will surely enable us to become a leader in the field of project-based learning.”

The University of Saint Francis, founded in 1890 as a comprehensive university in the Catholic Franciscan tradition, offers more than 60 undergraduate and 13 graduate programs in five schools: The School of Health Sciences, School of Arts and Sciences, Keith Busse School of Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership, School of Professional Studies and School of Creative Arts. More than 2,300 students from a broad geographic region attend USF for its academic excellence. The university has a regional campus in Crown Point, Ind.

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