TANKERSLEY, R.A.*; WINDSOR, J.G.; HANSELMAN, J.A.; Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne; Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne; Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne: InSTEP: Enhancing Science Education Through Graduate Student-Teacher Partnerships

In an effort to enhance science instruction in K-12 schools, Florida Tech has developed a new partnership between students, researchers, and high school teachers in Brevard County, FL. The Integrated Science Teaching Enhancement Partnership (InSTEP) is part of the NSF’s Graduate Fellowships in K-12 Education (GK-12) Program and is designed to foster student interest in science while boosting teacher confidence in science content and inquiry-based instruction. Each year, eight graduate students from Florida Tech’s science departments (Biology, Chemistry, Marine and Environmental Systems, and Physics) are matched with eight Brevard County high school Integrated Science (IS) teachers to design and pilot a series of learning modules linking core IS content areas—Earth science, biology, chemistry and physics. Using “ocean exploration” as a common theme, the program takes advantage of Florida’s extensive coastal resources and student awareness of local ocean-related issues. Modules are based on state and national curriculum standards and include demonstrations and inquiry-based activities that rely heavily on instructional strategies that encourage experimentation and problem solving. Through their participation in the program, Fellows learn valuable teaching, communication and classroom management skills and gain a heightened awareness of their ability to enhance K-12 education. Teachers improve their understanding and mastery of science concepts and content, increase their comfort with inquiry-based techniques, and develop a greater appreciation for the interdisciplinary nature of the IS curriculum. Students have an opportunity to interact with scientists and career role models and develop a deeper understanding of the scientific process and the relevance of science to local issues.