Albright College Faculty Helping Boost STEM-Related Instruction in PA Public Schools

Four Albright College faculty members are helping Pennsylvania elementary and high school teachers boost science and mathematics instruction in their classrooms.

Brian Buerke, Ph.D., associate professor of physics; Christopher Catone, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematics; Michele Cramer, chemistry instructor; and Shelley Kauffman, Ph.D., earth science and geology instructor, have been named faculty partners in the Pennsylvania Multi-Region Mathematics/Science/STEM Partnership Project.

Funded through a $1.4 million federal grant, the three-year, statewide project brings together six Pennsylvania colleges and universities, national science and technology centers, and school districts to help teachers increase their content knowledge of national and state core standards in math and science; to increase STEM-related instruction in their classrooms; and to increase students’ interest in this material and possibly careers in these fields.

The Albright faculty is working with more than 70 teachers of grades 3 through 12 from Norristown-, Pottstown- and Lancaster-area districts. Each year, participants will spend three days at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and five days at Immaculata University, where professors will instruct the elementary/high school teachers in math and science content. Follow-up sessions are held throughout the year.

This is Albright’s first involvement with the grant program. Buerke said the program is helping educators, particularly those at the primary level, feel more comfortable teaching science and math and be more creative in their instruction.

“Comfort level is a huge problem, especially at the elementary level. If a teacher is more knowledgeable and enthused, it could entice students to go into STEM fields,” said Buerke, adding that program assessments are already yielding positive results. “This is a great opportunity, and it has a lot of potential to improve the education in the participating regions.”

The program focuses on under-performing school districts and those with socio-economic challenges.

According to Kauffman, a partnership between school districts and colleges is long overdue. “There is so much opportunity to bridge the gap between what’s happening at the local colleges with the local school districts,” she said. ‘That’s always been an area I think we’re missing.”

The school district teachers are not the only benefactors of this partnership, said Kauffman, who noted that the program has made her rethink how she presents material in her own classroom.

The six higher education partners are Albright, Bucknell University, Immaculata, Lycoming College, the University of Scranton and the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg.

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