NEWTON, MA | January 31, 2006
Educators from 25 states who are reshaping the ways that young people develop interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) will report their findings after three years in a federal program launched to address the looming shortage of STEM professionals in the U.S. The directors of 50 projects in the ITEST program, representing a $53 million investment by the National Science Foundation (NSF), will share what they’ve learned at a symposium next week conducted by Education Development Center (EDC).
Launched in 2002 by the NSF to address the decreasing number of professionals in STEM careers, the ITEST program provides school-age children and teachers with skills and career knowledge through hands-on experiences. The program reaches 3000 teachers and more than 75,000 students in grades 6-12, through ITEST projects located in schools, universities, after-school programs, museums, and other community settings. To support these efforts, leverage, and disseminate lessons learned through the program, NSF also funds the ITEST Learning Resource Center.
“Nearly every day we see building evidence of the urgent need to ensure that students have the skills and interest to move into these areas, in order to keep the U.S. competitive in the 21st century,” said EDC’s Joyce Malyn-Smith who directs the ITEST Learning Resource Center. “Experiences with this program are designed to help young people develop the foundational knowledge and core skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These are the tools that will sustain their interest over time by helping them succeed as they move through rigorous academic courses leading to careers in these fields,” she said.
Among the ways educators in ITEST projects are encouraging student interest:
- In Baltimore, 336 middle school girls and boys are developing IT skills through digital storytelling, animation, and robotics.
- In the Mississippi Delta, 72 teachers from rural schools and their students are employ global positioning systems (GPS) to study the effects of field conditions on crops.
- In rural Oregon, 180 Native American youth are performing archaeological surveys and utilizing computer modeling to map the hunting paths of their ancestors.
- On the California coast, 40 teachers are analyzing DNA from samples they’ve collected, and infusing biotechnology into their lesson plans.
- In Detroit, the parents/caregivers of 120 African American and Latino students are learning ways to help their children develop interest in the STEM fields.
“In today’s global economy, we must do all we can to see that all our citizens have the best possible education. Guaranteeing that our talented youth have the opportunity to succeed, especially in the critical fields of science, math, technology and engineering, is vital to our nation’s future,” said Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) who is scheduled to address the symposium.