New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) was awarded a five-year, $3-million National Science Foundation grant to impart and infuse computational methods and tools in a math and science context into high school classrooms in Newark. The result will be that 3000 high school students and their teachers will have a unique chance to learn how computers can be used to model, simulate and visualize vast amounts of information that enhance traditional theoretical and experimental approaches to science and math. The “Computation and Communication: Promoting Research Integration in Science and Mathematics” or C2PRISM grant will place 24 Fellows—all working towards doctoral degrees in the computational sciences or mathematics in one of three Newark public high schools and one private high school, St. Vincent’s Academy.
“Beyond the scientific community, few people have had the chance to learn how computing has transformed research. We aim to change that image,” said Fadi Deek, PhD, dean of NJIT’s College of Science and Liberal Arts, who is one of the three principal investigators leading the research team. “We see this as a great opportunity for teachers to participate in an NSF-funded NJIT professional development program. Teachers will have the chance to interact with peers in Newark, attend regional and national conferences and even co-author conference papers.”
During the summer, the Fellows will receive two weeks of training in classroom strategies to facilitate inquiry-based classroom activities, understand interpersonal dynamics and classroom safety, and how to document their work. Two additional weeks will be devoted to the Fellow and teacher pairs planning and designing standards and inquiry-based math and science lessons, learning how to relate measurable learning objectives to student work products and understanding how best to implement state content standards.
“We anticipate that having young scientists in the classroom will help students understand the practical relevance of math and science,” says Bruce Bukiet, PhD, associate professor of Mathematics and a co-PI on the grant. “One of our goals is to encourage young people to consider higher education and careers in math and science.”
The Fellows and teachers will eventually work at NJIT and in high school laboratories, updating the teachers on computational tools and techniques for cutting-edge research in mathematics and physical sciences. The teaching teams will develop math, physics, chemistry and biology curricula aimed at igniting students’ curiosity and analytical thinking skills, plus brainstorming solutions to communicate the nuances of complex content materials Fellows will offer teachers new ways to show how computing supports and enriches research.
“Explaining complex problems to non-experts is an opportunity to improve one’s communication skills,” says Dr. Rob Friedman, associate professor of humanities and the third member of the research team. “We expect this experience will help disseminate Fellows’ research and support them in their careers.”
Participating teachers will receive an annual stipend, teaching assistance for two days a week, the opportunity to receive travel funds and exposure to the latest advances in their field. They will also have the chance to learn new computational methods and add ongoing research to their curricula. Other benefits will include participation in an NJIT professional development day with professors and others from the College of Science and Liberal Arts at NJIT. Teachers will also be involved in a conference for New Jersey math and science teachers, where Fellows and teachers will present their work. Teachers’ and Fellows’ reports describing the project will be published on the World Wide Web.
“Consider the convenience, too. Teachers will be updated on the newest and latest goings-on in the field of science and research, without anyone ever having to leave their classroom. The grant offers a terrific opportunity,” Deek said. “At one level, we will be equipping young people with more essential knowledge in science and math, and challenging them to improve their basic problem-solving ability. But on another level, the excitement and relevance of a career at the very edge in knowledge is of importance, especially when we use it to foster the workforce needed to support a knowledge-based 21st century economy.”