September 27, 2007 - Lincoln, Neb. - The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has been named the recipient of a grant from the Toyota USA Foundation to help fund the development of a collaborative interdisciplinary online master's degree program for K-12 science teachers across the country.
Teachers participating in the master's program will have the opportunity to improve their own science knowledge while also learning effective science teaching methods to apply in their classrooms.
Awarded over four years, the $540,345 grant will help build the online master's program, develop curriculum and courses, recruit and retain teachers to participate and evaluate their progress. Collaborating at UNL are the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and College of Education and Human Sciences, and Extended Education and Outreach.
Through the program, more than 100 science teachers across the country will take part in a curriculum developed by UNL professors. Course tools include textbooks, homework exercises, computer software, curriculum design projects, examinations, and online discussions with instructors and other teachers, as well as evaluations. By interacting with instructors and one another online, teachers can work through the material together in a structured and scheduled format. The advantages of the UNL approach is that teachers can participate in the class when and where is most convenient for them, making a master's degree accessible for teachers in underserved rural areas, and those unable to travel to a college or university location.
"The grant from Toyota USA Foundation will provide an opportunity to create a collaborative interdisciplinary online master's program to more effectively integrate science content and pedagogy into course offerings," said David C. Gosselin, a professor in Natural Resources Sciences and a co-director on the grant. "We have many of the pieces for the professional development program puzzle. This grant will allow us to put the puzzle together so that both the instructors and the teachers benefit. We strongly believe that as a teacher's knowledge grows, so does their student's, and that is what it is all about."
According to Gosselin, "elementary teachers are often cited as the most important single influence on the long-term attitudes of their students toward science. In Nebraska, for example, there are approximately 14,600 elementary teachers who are responsible for the education of 151,400 K-5 students," Yet, these teachers may have had only minimal academic preparation in science. Other teachers to benefit would be pre-service elementary education majors and home-school instructors. A 1999 survey by the National Center for Education Statistics found that about 850,000 students, or 1.7 percent of the nation's students ages 5 to 17, were being taught at home.
"By making its science education program accessible online, UNL is providing hundreds of teachers across the country a chance to improve their own skills in this important area, and in turn, enhance the teaching they provide for thousands more students," said Patricia Pineda, group vice president, legal, philanthropy and administration at Toyota Motor North America. "We're thrilled to help make this program available through UNL and are certain it will help engage students and pique their interest in science education."
The Toyota USA Foundation is a $42 million charitable endowment created to support education programs serving kindergarten through 12th grade students and their teachers in the United States, with an emphasis on mathematics and science. For additional information about the Toyota USA Foundation, visit www.toyota.com/foundation.
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