Partnership aims to reinvigorate science education
Wisconsin teachers discuss science curriculum.
November 29, 1999
Web posted at: 11:59 a.m. EST (1659 GMT)
By Environmental News Network staff
Science and math classes will soon take on new dimensions at four Wisconsin school districts thanks to a partnership between the National Science Foundation and the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
The new initiative, known as the K-Through-Infinity Professional
Development Partnership, is an ambitious effort to join
a broad array of University of Wisconsin science, math and science research and
education programs with the expertise of K-12 teachers.
"We want to better connect university scientific discovery, and the excitement of that discovery, with K through 12 education, said Terry Millar, a UW-Madison graduate school associate dean and a professor of mathematics. "This is science education for the 21st century."
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"International studies that rate math and science performance among K through 12 students in the industrial world place the U.S. at the bottom of the heap," Millar said. "Yet the university system in the United States is the envy of the world."
The K-Through-Infinity program aims to address that disconnection by better integrating the education system from the university to primary school level.
Four overreaching goals of the program are:
- to increase the overall scientific literacy of K-12 teachers and students;
- to raise interest in science, math and engineering in K-12 schools,
especially among groups under represented in science such as women and
- to give University of Wisconsin at Madison graduate students a better awareness of K-12 curriculum, teaching and learning issues, through a year long involvement in the classroom;
- and to shift the culture of the university to raise the status of
The basic working units of the K-Through-Infinity project will be teams made up of UW-Madison graduate students, science and engineering faculty, school of education faculty, K-12 master teachers, K-12 curriculum coordinators, administrators and guidance counselors.
Together, the cooperating teams will develop a series of projects
aimed at solving problems or capitalizing on opportunities to enhance
the teaching of science, math or engineering by better mining the
scientific enterprise and other resources at the University of Wisconsin.
For example, one K-Through-Infinity team will explore issues of developing learning tools and content for the Web that could enhance both the college and
K-12 learning environments.
Key players in all of the K-Through-Infinity teams and projects will be
graduate and selected undergraduate students from many disciplines
who will be awarded fellowships to apprentice with the K-Through-Infinity teams. The fellows will not only have opportunities to help
develop new methods for teaching science, but to apply those methods
in the educational trenches — schools and other learning
"The way that university researchers view and do science is the most
important benefit we can share with students and teachers in the K-12
schools," Millar says. "The greatest promise of this initiative is
the opportunity to provide K-12 students the chance to learn how to
do science from the example of the researcher who probes the unknown
Lisa Wachtel, science coordinator for Wisconsin's Madison Metropolitan School District, says the power of the new partnership is in its potential
to harness scientific research directly to the K-12 classroom.
"This is an opportunity that gets at the heart of science education:
learning science by doing real science," Wachtel says. "Teachers are
eager to collaborate with science researchers in ways that will
enhance their students' abilities to view science as something real
and vibrant, and possibly as a career choice."
Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved
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