A is For Atom, Applied Knowledge: $5 Million Grant to Open Penn's Science Teacher Institute for Area Teachers

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Media Contact:Greg Lester | glester@pobox.upenn.edu | 215-573-6604October 18, 2004

PHILADELPHIA -- The University of Pennsylvania has received a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to establish the Penn Science Teacher Institute, where secondary and middle-level grade science teachers will take part in masters-level programs to improve their ability to teach science. The institute builds on Penn successful Master of Chemistry Education program, the first and only content-intensive science teacher-training degree program by a research university.

The institute is comprised of the MCE program and a new proposed Master of Integrated Science Education program, which will be a multidiscipline science degree for middle school teachers. The STI will also include teacher Resource Centers, which support both participants and graduates, and the Administrators' Science Education Academy, where school administrators learn how to work with and support teachers to improve science education for all students.

"Science and mathematics pose unique challenges for teachers in the classroom, and the Penn Science Teacher Institute will provide teachers the content-preparation and tools they need to engage their students in the sciences and improve science literacy," said Hai-Lung Dai, a professor in Penn Department of Chemistry and director of the new institute.  "The Penn Science Teacher Institute will also work directly with local school district administrators to ensure that teachers are able to apply what they have learned in the classroom."

The Penn STI is a collaborative effort between Penn School of Arts and Sciences and Penn Graduate School of Education.  In both the MCE and MISE programs, participants will take eight science courses and two education courses. The sciences courses are taught by faculty from Penn departments of Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Environmental Science, Mathematics and Physics and Astronomy.  The education courses emphasize research-based teaching and learning practices, including the Penn Inquiry Model, a method in which teachers take on the role of learning guides who allow students to work together to solve problems and understand difficult concepts.

Currently, 20 school districts from Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey are slated to participate in the institute programs.  Each summer, two classes of about 20 participants will begin in each program, which will offer 10 courses for 26 months.  The classes are offered during the summer and on Saturdays during the academic year.  Stipends and scholarships for participating teachers cover full tuition costs.

"It is a challenging program, but it is incredibly stimulating," said Connie Blasie, the Penn STI program director.  "We work hard to ensure that our participants are not overwhelmed by the program.  Indeed, wee developed the institute so that teacher participants not only receive full financial support but also the full moral encouragement and career support of their colleagues and administrators."

The Resource Centers of the STI include the Dreyfus Chemistry Education Resource Center at the Department of Chemistry and the GSE Penn-Merck Collaborative for Science Education.  Here, participants can find materials to support both course work and their classroom initiatives as well as electronic resources and further professional development opportunities.  The centers will also help participants identify grants and funding possibilities for the purchase of classroom learning materials and equipment.

The $5 million grant is part of the NSF Teacher Institutes for the 21st Century initiative and will fund the Penn STI for five years.

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