Campus: San Francisco State University -- February 11, 2004
San Francisco State University School Partnership
Featured At Premier Science Meeting
An innovative San Francisco State University program for teaching science
to middle and high school students will be showcased at the annual meeting
of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Feb.
12-16, 2004, in Seattle.
As part of a special AAAS focus on leading-edge issues in science and
mathematics education, biology Professor John Stubbs and high school
teacher Anne Marie Grace will talk about the GK 12 Project, a partnership
between San Francisco State University and the San Francisco Unified
School District (SFUSD). Stubbs is principal investigator of the project,
funded by the National Science Foundation. Grace teaches at San Francisco's
International Studies Academy. Their presentation is one of four in
a special symposium on university/school partnerships that will follow
a keynote address by National Science Foundation director Dr. Rita Colwell.
The GK 12 project draws upon the skills and enthusiasm of science graduate
students to enhance grade school students' interest in the sciences.
Twelve grad students form collaborative partnerships with teachers and
work in classrooms for an average of 10 hours a week, acting not as
assistant teachers, but as scientific resource specialists who develop
activities that stimulate students to ask questions and explore. To
date, SFSU grad students have created more than 100 lesson activities,
with direct impact on more than 3,000 San Francisco public school students.
The NSF's goal in funding the project is threefold: teachers get a fresh
resource for bringing the material alive for students; graduate students
serve as role models and mentors for the younger students, interesting
them in science careers; and graduate students develop mentoring philosophies
and practices in the hopes that they'll continue to value and practice
youth outreach throughout their scientific careers. In addition, the
graduate students receive $27,500 stipends that help support their graduate
The program is especially helpful in middle schools or under-performing
schools, which may not be able to recruit teachers trained specifically
in the sciences. "By having a partnership between a real science
student and a teacher, you can show a teacher that science concepts
are accessible -- you can do it, it's sustainable and it's fun,"
SFSU faculty in the colleges of Education and Science and Engineering
work with the grad students to develop teaching and presentation skills
and conduct joint grad student/SFUSD teacher workshops. The program
also provides some books and materials that grad students can use in
lessons -- such traditional aids as microscope slides, thermometers
and mineral sets and the more unusual Slinky® walking springs, tornado
in a bottle, air powered rocket and mousetrap powered cars.
Sarah Weigel, a grad student partner in 2001-02 who is now an outreach
coordinator with the program, says that typical activities are hands-on
experiences that lead to self-discovery of key concepts in the curriculum.
"For example, we wanted to teach about viscosity in a sixth-grade
earth science course, so we started out having students race different
liquids down an incline and time the flow. They calculated averages,
integrated some graphing into it, and eventually got into a discussion
of why liquids are moving at different rates, and lo and behold you're
talking about something called viscosity."
Stubbs points out that, on a national level, "there's been a lot
of research on cognitive learning that shows inquiry-based learning
is more effective than rote. You get deep learning from the kids and
deep appreciation of the concepts."
There's good evidence that the approach works, too. Students are more
enthusiastic about science, grades have improved and teachers who said
they would have left a school credit the program with retaining them.
"In a physics class at Thurgood Marshall (high school) grades have
moved up an average of a notch," Stubbs says. In fact, Marshall
students have teamed up with peers at International Studies Academy
to form an after-school physics club.
Currently, 12 master's degree students in the College of Science and
Engineering are partnered with science teachers at Horace Mann, Visitacion
Valley and A.P. Giannini middle schools and at six high schools: International
Studies Academy, Phillip and Sala Burton, John O'Connell, Thurgood Marshall,
Wallenberg and Lowell.
SFSU was one of the first universities in California awarded NSF funds
for the initial track of the GK 12 program, beginning in fall 2001.
Later this year the project enters a second phase, with a new, $2 million
award for five years. In this phase, the College and school district
will transition toward institutionalized support. Support from the NSF
will be reduced over the five years, but master's candidates will use
the outreach partnership experience to fulfill a new "science education"
component that they can elect toward meeting thesis requirements. The
intent is to have science outreach partnership become a permanent part
of the College of Science and Engineering mission, a goal strongly supported
by Dean Sheldon Axler.
Contact: Ellen Griffin, Public Affairs, 415/338-6990, firstname.lastname@example.org