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Museum of Science, Community Colleges, Universities Fill STEM Teacher Pipeline

July 18, 2013

Instruction in STEM subjects -- science, technology, engineering, and math -- is critical. But, according to the 2012 National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education, only one in ten elementary teachers feels well prepared to teach engineering to students.

With nearly $900,000 from the National Science Foundation, the BEST project (Bridging Engineering, Science, and Technology for Elementary Educators) has addressed this need since 2010. The three-year initiative is a project of Engineering is Elementary® at the Museum of Science, Boston in partnership with four Massachusetts community colleges and four partner four-year college or state universities. The Museum was the nation's first museum to partner with community colleges to introduce engineering and technology in elementary teacher education programs in 2007 -- five years before President Obama's community college initiative.

In May 2013, as the BEST project wraps up, more than 50 Massachusetts college, university and community college faculty and staff shared best practices at the Museum. They have developed "some truly exemplary lessons," says BEST project consultant Martha Hass. "We wanted to share these models with elementary education staff and faculty from across New England as they begin to prepare future teachers for the Next Generation Science Standards." Exemplary lessons will be posted at

In one case, Jessie Klein of Middlesex Community College developed a lesson that integrates engineering into a botany course. As part of studying nutrients' role in plant growth, students engineer a hydroponic system for growing plants in liquid, without soil.

The program helps college faculty develop lessons that infuse engineering and technology concepts and design skills into science and education courses for preservice teachers. In the summer, faculty explore models for integrating engineering into courses they teach. During the school year, they implement these strategies, supported by Web-based information-sharing and workshops. Faculty evaluate the impact of their new strategies using a student assessment developed by BEST.

Institutions partnering with the Museum include Berkshire Community College, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Massasoit Community College, Bridgewater State University, Middlesex Community College, Fitchburg State University, North Shore Community College, and Salem State University. BEST is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation's Advanced Technological Education division (NSF-ATE).

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The Museum of Science, Boston

  1 Science Park, Boston, MA 02114  phone: 617-723-2500