ANDERSON-STYGLES, J.P.; ROSS, S.; Univ. of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg; Univ. of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg: GK-12 and the University of Southern Mississippi: integrating university resources into K-12 classrooms
NSF Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12) is an education program funded nationally through the National Science Foundation. The program provides support for graduate students of science, technology, engineering and mathematics to enter into local classrooms to integrate the content knowledge and content application skills of the graduate student with the teaching skills of the classroom instructor. The primary goals are: to enrich the learning experience of K-12 students; the professional development of the classroom instructor; and the teaching skills of the graduate student. Within the design of the program implemented through the University of Southern Mississippi, local school districts are empowered to choose the classrooms most in need of fellow support. Four fellows from the Department of Biological Sciences at USM participate in the program, with each fellow in a different area school district. The fellows have brought into the classrooms both new lab exercises and new approaches to presenting standard biology concepts. Additionally, the program has been successful in strengthening the lines of communication and partnership between USM and the surrounding schools. Biology GK-12 fellows have made possible laboratory exercises such as shark dissections in a fifth grade classroom and DNA fingerprinting in a rural high school. A natural science trail has been constructed with learning kiosks similar to those in zoos and natural science museums and is available to all area school districts for use. Funds are also made available for the purchase of supplies to provide resources for new laboratory exercises. As a result of this program, now in its third year, participating students are more enthusiastic towards learning science and mathematics.