$1.2 million grant will help develop stronger STEM teachers


At the ED Collabitat grand opening, Curators’ Teaching Professor Charles Granger (left) explains how STEM educators can use brain-based instruction and a focus on real-world problem-solving to stimulate interest in math and science among students of all ages. (Photo by August Jennewein)

As an example of inquiry-based teaching, University of Missouri–St. Louis biologist Chuck Granger posed the questions, “How does a seed know which way to send its roots? Its stem? How could you find out?”

Helping precollegiate students understand the answers to those questions requires a teacher who possesses a deep knowledge of various sciences and those individuals are in short supply, said Granger, Curators’ Teaching Professor of Biology and Education.

A $1.2 million grant awarded to UMSL’s College of Education by the National Science Foundation will allow the university to help address that shortfall. The funding will be dedicated to the creation of the Building Excellence in STEM Talent program at UMSL.

The program will offer STEM graduate students a $10,000 per year scholarship as they work toward a master’s degree in their scientific field and a teaching certificate. Serving as the principle investigator, Granger envisions that the BEST program will increase the flow of STEM majors into the teaching profession, enhance the quality of individuals seeking teacher certification and promote employment of highly qualified STEM teachers in underserved school districts.

“UMSL BEST scholars will have pragmatic STEM career experiences and pedagogy methodologies to stimulate student interests in pursuing STEM-related careers. The curricula will focus on critical thinking and problem-solving based on real-life situations,” said Granger.

Through community partnerships with corporations like Sigma-Aldrich and local school districts, the BEST program will help future educators through the usage of UMSL’s InnoLab. The lab will bring together students, professors and entrepreneurs to brainstorm and test new, innovative learning tools and stimulating curricula.

The team that secured the grant included College of Education Dean Carole Basile, Orthwein Endowed Professor for Lifelong Learning in the Sciences Keith Miller and Phyllis Balcerzak, senior program producer. Granger believes the combination of their efforts will provide opportunities for a range of students.

“BEST teachers will open vistas for underserved students that otherwise would not have such mentorship available to them and provide a substantial increase in the STEM workforce of Missouri STEM industries,” Granger said.

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