Teaching the Teachers: Grand Rapids Science Teachers Converge on Tech

By Jennifer Donovan | Published

Fifteen middle-school earth science teachers from the Grand Rapids Public Schools are learning about the geology of Michigan this week and next.

They are on the Michigan Technological University campus this week (June 15-19) working with Michigan Tech faculty and graduate students to develop new ways to teach their students about the world of science and add excitement to their curriculum on current issues such as climate change, earthquakes, volcanoes, energy and water resources.

Next week (June 22-26) they will conduct field explorations in the Grand Rapids area, refine teaching units for earth science based on their field geology studies, and work on developing leadership skills.

It's all part of a new program called MiTEP (Michigan Teaching Excellence Program),funded by a $4 million 5-year National Science Foundation Math Science Partnership grant. MiTEP brings university geoscience researchers and middle-school teachers together to find ways to make earth science more exciting and meaningful to middle school students.

"While at Tech, they'll be investigating the unique geologic features of the Keweenaw Peninsula," said Jackie Huntoon, dean of the Graduate School. "They are seeing some of the oldest rocks and youngest sediments exposed on the Keweenaw, while they conduct experiments at Eagle River and Great Sand Bay. They also will visit Horseshoe Harbor to examine billion-year-old rocks that contain 'algal stromatolites,'’ which are evidence of ancient life on our planet."

The group will also visit the Gay Stamp Sands and spend time working together to revise and improve the Grand Rapids earth science curriculum.

The project ultimately hopes to motivate more young people to consider advanced education and careers in science, technology, engineering and math, fields known collectively as STEM. Educators nationwide have expressed concern about a declining interest in STEM among today's students. STEM professionals are in high demand and are viewed as critical in our nation's effort to maintain its leadership role in the world’s economy.

As a research project, MiTEP is collecting data that will be used to determine if it can become a model for improving science teaching nationwide.

In addition to Michigan Tech and Grand Rapids Public Schools, partners in the project include the Grand Rapids Area Precollege Engineering Program (GRAPCEP), the American Geological Institute, the National Park Service (Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Keweenaw National Historic Park), Grand Valley State University and the Colorado School of Mines.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.