Earth science education program awarded $1.87 million

Jordan Jacobs

The National Science Foundation awarded a $1.87 million grant to a group of geology and geography professors earlier this month.Now the departments are in the process of selecting students who will work with Stark County science teachers, funded by the grant money.

Geography professor Mandy Munro-Stasiuk headed the group, which also included geography professor Scott Sheridan, geology professors Joseph Ortiz and Donna Witter, and Richard Dinko, director of Stark County educational service center.

The program, called GK-12: Inquiry-Based Approaches to Earth System Science will use the grant money to assist middle school science teachers in Stark County. The money will fund teacher development programs to help the teachers become more familiar with the earth science concepts they will be teaching their students.

Earth science curriculum is no longer required in Ohio high schools, but students will still deal with many of the same concepts, Munro-Stasiuk said.

“We get a lot of students as freshman, and I understand their comprehension of geography is kind of narrow,” Munro-Stasiuk said.

The teacher development effort has many components. There will be two workshops, one covering earth science content, and another covering the tools that earth scientists use in the field.

The program will involve 14 students total, nine graduate students drawn from across the nation, and five undergraduate students from Kent State.

The graduate students will spend about half their time in the classroom assisting teachers and the other half conducting research. Each of the graduate students will receive a $30,000 stipend per year, as well as a full tuition waiver, renewable for three years. The group is in the process of considering applications for the graduate student positions.

The undergraduate students involved in the project will be in more of a support role and receive a $10,000 stipend per year. The undergraduate student applications have not been posted.

The graduate and undergraduate students involved will spend several weeks in classes designed to increase their teaching abilities before they are sent to work in the classrooms.

“Some of the classes we’ll be teaching the graduate students will be open and available to the teachers,” Munro-Stasiuk said.

Graduate and undergraduate students will be judged by the same criteria which includes academics and commitment to teaching, Munro-Stasiuk said.

The grant proposal process has been a learning process for both the grant proposal committee and the teachers they will be working with.

“We’re learning as much from our educational partners as they are from us,” Ortiz said.

Contact arts and science reporter Jordan Jacobs at [email protected].