Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Nano2Earth: Incorporating Cutting-Edge Research into Secondary Education through Scientist-Educator Partnerships

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Nano2Earth: Incorporating Cutting-Edge Research into Secondary Education through Scientist-Educator Partnerships

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Agencies such as the National Science Foundation have identified as a priority the incorporation of cutting-edge research into secondary science curriculum. The Nano2Earth project, a component of an NSF-sponsored nanoscale science and technology research program, provides an example of how scientist-educator partnerships have been essential in the production of classroom materials designed for secondary school students that incorporate cutting-edge research. Nano2Earth uses groundwater quality as a framework for the introduction and application or nanoscience and nanotechnology through teacher resources and lesson plans. Scientist-educator partnerships were formed to bridge the knowledge and culture gap between research and secondary education, develop proxies for advanced technologies for classroom activities, and address national and state standards. The development of the Nano2Earth project is evaluated within the framework of criteria for successful scientist-educator partnerships drawn from the literature. The involvement of graduate students provides a means to accomplish project goals, in addition to preparing a future generation of scientists and educators who are more prepared to address the broader impacts of their disciplines.

INTRODUCTION

Perhaps more than ever, direct ties between current scientific research, both the content and methods, and the benefit of the general public and society are sought and encouraged by federal agencies. Recent trends in research funding priorities, such as the National Science Foundation's "broader impacts" criteria, have influenced grant seeking-researchers to address a variety of societal issues in their proposed projects by 1) advancing discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning, 2) broadening participation of underrepresented groups, 3) enhancing infrastructure for research and education, 4) broadening dissemination to enhance scientific and technological understanding, and 5) benefiting society (NSF, 2004). Principal investigating scientists rarely have experience with outreach and educational programs, yet they are expected to successfully implement them. One strategy for successfully meeting the "broader impacts" criteria involves forming partnerships with science educators, teachers, museums, or other existing infrastructure elements that can provide the additional experiences perspectives, and knowledge needed. Developing and maintaining these partnerships may be time and energy intensive for all parties involved due to the conventional differences in the cultures of the scientists, the university educators, and the K-12 educators (Gomez et al., 1990; Carriuolo, 1996; Gosselin et al., 2003; Hall-Wallace and Regens, 2003). Additionally, cost may play a deciding factor in supporting everything from informal gatherings and travel expenditures to material resources.

The broader impacts criteria highlight the disconnect between cutting-edge scientific research and the material to which K-12 students are typically exposed. An NSF-sponsored workshop report recommended strategies for including cutting-edge research data and tools into the classroom lessons, as well as developing curricula with stronger interdisciplinary connections (NSF, 1997). These strategies should be a major consideration as participants of scientist-educator partnerships construct the frameworks for their collaborative ventures of developing materials appropriate for secondary education courses. The purpose of this article is to describe how a scientist-educator partnership was essential for the realization of an outreach and educational component of a National Science Foundation research grant in nanoscale science. The partners were successful in designing a curriculum, NanoZEarth, that strengthened the connections between cutting-edge research and the K-12 classroom, while emphasizing the dual impact of nanoscience and nanotechnology on natural Earth processes. …

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