Scripps Oceanography, San Diego Unified School District Partner to Bridge Science Education Gap


As part of a U.S. initiative to improve science education in public schools, graduate students and teachers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and San Diego Unified School District are partnering on an innovative program to help translate cutting-edge earth science research into new education programs and curriculum for aspiring young scientists.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded Scripps Oceanography a five-year, $2.5-million grant to fund the new GK-12 program - Scripps Classroom Connection - that pairs nine Scripps earth science graduate students with high school science teachers and their classes. The Scripps student fellows will provide hands-on science training in earth, ocean and environmental sciences to help educate the next generation of environmental leaders.

"Bringing Scripps' research strengths in earth sciences to San Diego-area classrooms through interaction with our talented graduate students is a perfect hybrid of our mission to seek, teach, and communicate scientific understanding of our planet for the benefit of society," said Tony Haymet, director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. "I'm very excited to see how all parties benefit from this unique collaboration."

The program is aimed at improving communication skills of Scripps graduate students by giving them teaching experience in middle and high school classrooms. In turn, it promotes and energizes the earth systems science curriculum in schools, improving earth science literacy, which is fundamental to society's efforts to effectively steward our fragile planet.

"The program offers high and middle school students a level of earth science literacy required as citizens in a world that is becoming increasingly complex in terms of energy and resource use, environment, global warming and from the dangers of earthquakes, floods and landslides," said Hubert Staudigel, Scripps research geophysicist and Scripps Classroom Connection project co-director.

During the upcoming academic year, graduate student-teacher pairs will bring enhanced earth systems science lessons to the classroom. Scripps graduate student fellows will spend on average 10 hours per week working in the classroom directly with science students. During Oct. 3-13, Scripps graduate student and GK-12 fellow Jared Kluesner will be engaging Mira Mesa High School earth science students and teacher Mark Snow through a research expedition to explore new seafloor as it erupts through volcanoes and other underwater features along the Gulf of California through daily blogs and photos.

From the classroom, the students will be interacting directly with the scientists by asking questions as they encounter unique geological features, such as hydrothermal vents, while conducting research at sea. Scripps graduate students and San Diego public school teachers conducting experiments off the Scripps pier during the Scripps Classroom Connection summer teacher-training program. The GK-12 program will also join teachers and students from Mission Bay and University City High Schools in an effort to explore the natural history of Rose Canyon, a local formation that geologically links the two schools.

The nine Scripps graduate student fellows and their partner earth systems teachers from seven schools in the San Diego Unified School District participated in a four-week summer training program on the Scripps campus. During this orientation, student fellows and teachers engaged in hands-on research activities to give the teachers an opportunity to connect more closely to the research and researchers at Scripps, prepared science lessons that will be led by the graduate students during the academic year and developed innovative learning tools to incorporate the latest earth science research discoveries into the public school's earth science program.

Staudigel and Scripps academic coordinator Cheryl Peach administer the program as project co-directors.

The program has been developed with the guidance of co-principal investigators Tony Haymet, Scripps director, and Lisa Tauxe, professor of geophysics. High school teachers in the 2009 program are from: Mission Bay High School; San Diego High School; Mira Mesa High School; San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts; University City High School; and Kearny High School.

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