Release: Immediate
Contact: Elizabeth Luciano
August 22, 2002

UMass Graduate Students to Assist Area Science Teachers; Project Brings Lab Research into
Middle Schools

AMHERST, Mass. - The University of Massachusetts Amherst has been awarded a $1.38 million grant for a three-year program designed to put graduate students into public-school science classrooms. UMass graduate students will assist a group of middle-school science teachers in Springfield in designing classroom projects that rely on environmental research themes. The program is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), as part of an initiative to foster "town-gown" partnerships in science and math education.

Under the program, a group of graduate students will be awarded year-round fellowships to work part-time in Springfield classrooms. The fellows, who will each receive a stipend of $21,500, will work with 20 Springfield teachers who are pursuing master’s degrees in education at the University. The project’s leaders are Julian Tyson of the chemistry department, Kathleen Davis of the School of Education, and Morton Sternheim, professor emeritus of physics and founder of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Institute. The new project is entitled STEM Connections.

"This project benefits everyone," said Tyson. "The Springfield teachers will have access to the University’s laboratory facilities and expertise, UMass faculty will gain an understanding of the needs and cultures of the schools, laying a foundation for future collaborations, and the UMass fellows will develop a connection with the K-12 community, and perhaps even inspire some area youngsters to become scientists themselves someday."

The middle-school teachers involved in the program are taking a year-long, six-credit course taught by Davis, focusing specifically on teaching science by introducing hands-on research projects. Teams including UMass faculty participants, two middle-school teachers, and one or two graduate students, will work together for the entire academic year, developing and carrying out research projects in which the middle-school students will be active participants. Research topics will include the hydrologic cycle, water chemistry, atmospheric ozone, arsenic from pressure-treated decks, factors affecting plant growth (including microgravity), pollen and seed cell growth, and the ecology and behavior of birds. The year-long effort will culminate in a middle-school science conference in Springfield where participants will share their research findings with each other and interested community groups.

Fellows spent the summer getting oriented to the classroom, and receiving instruction in educational methods and technical training.


For more information, contact Julian Tyson at 413-545-0195 or

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