In Old Minto, Alaska, Native American teens work with tribal elders and local scientists to map the natural history of their community. They combine such cutting edge technology as satellite imagery with traditional knowledge to record local geological data on digital maps showing ancient trails, traditional tribal sites, and significant geological features.
In Monterey and Santa Clara, California, middle school teachers collect marine life along the shore. They bring their specimens to Moss Landing Marine Labs where they work with scientists to extract and sequence DNA. The field work and findings enrich the development of new lesson plans on biotechnology for their students.
In Springfield, Illinois, teens in an after-school program accompany archaeologists on a local dig. Along with shovels and sifters, they use global positioning system technology to locate, excavate, and study the geological history of their community.
Across the country more than 30 projects like these are underway, introducing middle school science teachers and students to the wide range of careers available in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Known collectively as the ITest projects, they deliver hands-on, career-oriented projects to teens in after-school settings and teachers in summer institutes. EDC supports the initiative with the ITest Learning Resource Center (LRC).
“There is growing concern around the country about the shrinking American workforce in STEM careers,” says EDC’s Sarita Nair. As competition in these fields goes global, US preeminence is being challenged by other countries with a better trained workforce. “We need to capture and develop the talent pool among our own young people,” continues Nair. “We need to show them how exciting and rewarding STEM careers can be.”
To support the individual projects, ITest LRC brings staff from all of these projects together to collaborate and share promising practices. “We have set up the LRC so that the Alaska staff can talk about what they’re learning with the folks in Detroit,” says EDC’s Siobhan Bredin. “We want the work of the ITest program to be shared with a broad audience of educators and policy makers.” LRC does this by providing online events and face-to-face conferences. The LRC Web site also features a library of online publications, Web resources, and project profiles geared to educators, policy-makers, and researchers concerned with expanding the interests and skills of students and teachers in STEM-related fields. “The Web site is the public face of the project,” says Bredin. “We see it as an online forum for sharing this information broadly.”
The ITest projects and LRC are funded by the National Science Foundation.
Visit the Web site to learn more about the ITest projects and to access general information and resources about STEM education and careers.http://www2.edc.org/ITestlrc/
Originally published on May 1, 2005