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UIC GRAD STUDENTS TO HELP CHICAGO AREA MATH AND SCIENCE TEACHERS
Graduate students in science and engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago will be paid to help Chicago area public school teachers enrich their math and science classroom activities, thanks to a three-year, $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
The UIC grad students will bring their expertise - and in some cases, some very sophisticated instruments - to public school classrooms from kindergarten through high school.
Components of UIC's Graduate Fellows in K-12 Education program include a "chemistry van," based at the university, that brings advanced instruments like spectrophotometers and gas chromatographs to area schools; a virtual reality interactive visualization demonstration project at a grade school in Oak Park; a project to integrate math and science teaching by using computers to graph experimental data at middle schools in Chicago and Cicero; and a Chicago Public Schools program to create "math, science and technology academies" at neighborhood high schools.
The goal of the program is "not to substitute for teachers, but to support them," says Donald Wink, associate professor of chemistry, who coordinates UIC's program. "Teachers may be able to benefit from a graduate student coming in with greater, more up-to-date knowledge in a scientific field," he said.
The program also benefits the graduate students by providing financial support to the fellows while they continue their own studies and research.
"We bring in teachers to help train the graduate fellows," said Wink. "This is not a unidirectional program where we go help the teachers; the teachers will first help us."
UIC is one of 31 universities nationwide - and the only one in the state - to receive one of the NSF grants for collaborative programs to send university students to elementary and secondary schools to help teach science, mathematics and technology. The NSF announced $31 million in total grants last week.
"Although most of the program's alumni will not teach below the college level, we expect that they will continue to be involved in K-12 education," says Philip Wagreich, director of the UIC Institute for Mathematics and Science Education.
"When these people get their PhD's or master's degrees and go out into the workforce, they'll have a much better understanding of what goes on in schools. If they're university professors, they should be aware that many of their students in basic courses are future elementary and high school teachers," Wagreich said.
Other UIC faculty helping oversee the Graduate Fellows K-12 Education Program are Thomas Moher, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, of UIC's Electronic Visualization Laboratory, Maria Varelas, associate professor of education, who co-directs the program, and Wade Freeman, associate professor of chemistry, who initiated the chemistry van in 1994.
With 25,000 students, the University of Illinois at Chicago is the largest and most diverse university in the Chicago area. UIC is home to the largest medical school in the United States and is one of the 88 leading research universities in the country. Located just west of Chicago's Loop, UIC is a vital part of the educational, technological and cultural fabric of the area.
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