News Service


Loren Zachary, Engineering, (515) 294-3123
Janet Sharp, Curriculum and Instruction, (515) 294-8688
Skip Derra, News Service, (515) 294-4917


AMES, Iowa -- A two-year, $900,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will be used to create four new Iowa State University courses to teach K-12 teachers how to instill a love for science, mathematics and engineering in their students.

Loren Zachary, assistant dean in the College of Engineering, is the principal investigator for the team of 14 who will develop the four courses. They also will develop a summer workshop for practicing teachers and create related web sites.

"At important junctures in a student's life -- from grade school to middle school, from middle school to high school, and from high school to college -- there are more students that opt out of the mathematics and science areas," Zachary said.

The NSF grant project is an attempt to curb that loss by fostering a hands-on appreciation of math, science and engineering. The team includes faculty and staff from ISU's colleges of Engineering, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Education and Agriculture.

Two of the new courses will focus on engineering, "Engineering Mechanics for Teachers" and "Mobile Robots for High School Teachers." Another, "Insects in the Elementary Classroom," will feature entomology and the fourth class will look at botany. The entomology course will be the first available to students, during the spring semester of 2000.

"The accent of all the courses is on doing," Zachary said. "They will increase teachers' knowledge of the sciences and show them hands-on projects they can use in their classrooms."

Zachary and Janet Sharp, associate professor of curriculum and instruction, collaborated on the grant proposal, which is aimed at increasing the knowledge of pre-service and practicing teachers in mathematics, science and engineering so that K-12 students will be given a better background in these areas.

In kindergarten, children are always building things, Sharp said. These courses will help teachers learn the science and math behind such hands-on projects as building with legos or creating toothpick bridges so they can pass on their working science knowledge to their students.

"We hope to create teachers who have a very strong knowledge base in mathematics and science," Sharp said. "Future teachers don't really get a chance to study engineering. These courses will give them that opportunity."

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