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UNE announces $2.87M NSF Grant for GK-12 Stem Fellows Program

May 14, 2009

An innovative project designed to partner University of New England researchers and their graduate students with the local K-12 community has been awarded a substantial $2.87 million five-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant. 

Officially titled, "The Interactions of Biology, Chemistry and Physics at the Land-Ocean Interface: A Systemic PARTnership Aimed at Connecting University and School," the project is referred to as SPARTACUS.

The project, effective summer 2009, will engage Maine K-12 students and teachers in six Maine districts in inquiry-based learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related disciplines.  The interrelationships of physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics and geology will be examined in a local watershed using the Saco River Coastal Observing System (SaRCOS). 

UNE professors Stephan Zeeman, Dept. of Marine Sciences, Susan Hillman, Dept. of Education, and Charles Tilburg, Dept. of Chemistry and Physics, worked collaboratively to submit the successful program proposal. The project places graduate students in marine sciences and biology into six school districts in southern Maine as science resources for teachers.

The districts range from rural to urban settings and include the two largest and most ethnically diverse districts in Maine:  Biddeford, Portland, MSAD #6 (Buxton, Hollis, Limington, Standish, Frye Island), MSAD #57 (Alfred, Limerick, Lyman, Newfield, Shapleigh, Waterboro), MSAD #71 (Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Arundel), and RSU 23 (Saco, Dayton, Old Orchard Beach).  

They will use place-based education to strengthen the STEM skills of K-12 students by focusing classroom projects on scientific questions regarding climate and land-use, and their interaction with hydrology and materials in the Saco River and coastal waters of Maine.

Zeeman states, "By tying the Saco River into their own backyards, we aim to stir a level of interest early-on in students, especially those at the middle grades and among underrepresented groups, in STEM-related disciplines.  We hope to make the STEM pipeline work better and increase the number of people entering STEM fields."  This is the first time the University of New England has applied for and received this grant, which will be awarded, on average, $574,000 annually for five years.

More details about this exciting program may be found at /cas/marine/spartacus.cfm

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