The two overall goals of the proposed program are the:
- dramatic enhancement in intellectual and entrepreneurial citizenship of graduate students who will learn to articulate complex ideas pertaining to science, engineering and their state-of-the-art research in nanosciences to a broad audience ranging from mature teachers to inquisitive middle-school students to specialized university faculty.
- infusion of new energy and talent, fresh ideas and dedicated resources to inculcate a life-long enthusiasm, love and knowledge of physical sciences in GK-12 via the tantalizing promise of nanotechnology and nanosciences.
The uniqueness of the proposed program lies in its approach towards the two aforementioned goals. Our goals will be achieve through the following specific activities:
- Engage in numerous active hands-on learning activities using the Knowledge, Applications, Research, and Technology (KART) approach for K-12 students and teachers led by graduate fellows. This activity will ensure the development and modernization of the science knowledge base of the involved teachers. These activities will tie in closely with the revised science TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) standards recommended to be implemented in all schools. More details of the KART approach are discussed in section (c.3).
- Graduate fellows will take complex engineering and scientific concepts and relay them, in coordination with teachers, via examples from popular culture. For example, modules will be created inspired from Science Behind Harry Potter to discuss concepts such electromagnetism (cloaking materials, invisibility), quantum mechanics (teleportation) among others. See section c.3 for further details. The philosophical basis of this activity complement the KART approach in that interest and enthusiasm towards physical sciences in motivated through the exciting applications and promise of nanotechnology.
- Graduate fellows (who are expected to be a diverse ethnic mix, representative of the Greater Houston population) will learn the fine art of pedagogy and communication through both specific program related exposure (see activities #1-2) but also via specific training in communication and pedagogy at UH short courses. The short courses providing pedagogy and communication content will be driven at UH by specialists in these areas and will involve hands on exercises such as mock scenarios, team-building concepts among others.
- Summer research experiences for teachers through our current and ongoing NSF funded RET Site: “Innovations in Nanotechnology” focused on developing nanotechnology content knowledge in targeted interdisciplinary subjects will not only be used for recruitment and selection (see section d) but also for providing incentives for teachers to get involved in our GK-12 program. RET provides the quickest route for science teachers to modernize their curriculum and efforts will be made to attach the RET participating teacher with the academic advisor of the paired graduate fellow. This will facilitate the understanding of the scientific materials prepared by the graduate fellows and provide a facile route to the development of “common language’ between the teacher and paired graduate fellow.
- Paired teachers and graduate fellows will participate at local and regional scientific conferences including those organized by ASEE.
- Selected teacher-fellow pair will work (and visit) with international collaborator Dr. Sami El-Borgi (Tunisia) whose premier engineering school (Ecole Polytechnic de Tunisia) has a startling female to male ratio of 1:1. Currently, the PI has a small NSF grant to foster research collaboration with Egypt and Tunisia.
- Both teachers and graduate fellows will be mentored in submitting joint articles about their work to teacher and educational oriented journals such as Science Teacher and American Journal of Physics.
- In addition to supporting teachers outside the classroom, sustained follow-up will be achieved by class field trips to UH, graduate fellow partnerships in the classroom, internal conferences, and additional classroom visitations by the UH engineering students and faculty. The internal UH conference will be held biannually. This activity will facilitate and foster sharing of best-practices, community identity and feeling and streamline the process for continuation beyond the expiration of the NSF funding.
- The primary dissemination of the program results will be through our website (which has already been created and will become operative if this program is funded). Archival dissemination will occur through articles in journals (as alluded to above) such as American Journal of Physics, Science Teachers and ASEE publications.
- Sustainability and Longevity: We expect the proposed program to continue and strengthen beyond the five year NSF funded period. Strong institutional commitments currently exist to implement such a vision (see letters and section e).
- Through the proposed program, University of Houston will be in a unique position to foster partnership and collaborations among participating schools and this aspect will be actively pursued by all the investigators.