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Qwest plugs in to EcoSTARS to advance STEM elementary education

Qwest Foundation has joined the HB Fuller Company Foundation and Xcel Energy Foundation in providing financial support to the EcoSTARS partnership at St. Catherine University.

Qwest GES Sales Manager for Qwest Bowen Phelps presented a $7,500 check to St. Kate’s Associate Dean of Education Lori Maxfield Monday.

EcoSTARS is a partnership of integrated environmental science learning between pre-kindergarten (PK)–12 schools and the University to advance student learning and enthusiasm for STEM subjects.

St. Kate’s education faculty train elementary education majors and classroom teachers to conduct STEM investigations, create fieldwork experiences for elementary students and provide mentoring during lessons at partner schools.

Curriculum is drawn from GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment; more below), Project Learning Tree (PLT) and Project WET (Water Education for Teachers).

The EcoSTARS partnership equips St. Kate’s elementary education majors with valuable classroom experience before their student-teaching assignment. In-service teachers benefit from state-of-the-art professional development training in STEM subjects.

For their initial licensure, elementary education majors at St. Kate’s are now required to complete a STEM certificate–three of five courses in the University’s unique STEM minor.

EcoSTARS success and expansion
St. Catherine University began the first EcoSTARS partnership in fall 2006 with the Prior Lake-Savage Area School District with support from the Jeffers Foundation.

This successful partnership created the momentum to expand the EcoSTARS model in fall 2008 into Northrop Urban Environmental School in Minneapolis and Crossroads Elementary in St. Paul.

“The support from all of our partners – foundations, school partners, St. Kate’s students and faculty – provides us with continued opportunities to enhance STEM Education in elementary classrooms that ultimately affects student interest, engagement, and achievement,” said Maxfield. “As we continue our work with the partner schools, we gain valuable information that allows us to revise our education courses to ensure that our elementary education majors gain greater comfort and confidence in teaching STEM related subjects.”

The EcoSTARS program coordinates with the National Center for STEM Elementary Education to improve elementary teacher effectiveness, advance student performance and strengthen society’s literacy in STEM.

More about GLOBE
GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) provides teachers and students with opportunities to learn by taking scientifically valid measurements while conducting investigations in the areas of atmosphere, hydrology, soil, land cover/biology, earth as a system, and creating maps with global positioning systems (GPS).

Additional aspects of GLOBE include reporting local data through the Internet, publishing research projects based on GLOBE data and protocols, creating maps and graphs on the free interactive website to analyze data sets, and collaborating with scientists and other GLOBE students around the world.

Over 100 countries are involved in GLOBE, which engages K–12 students worldwide as they do real science, collect data and share it via a website. St. Catherine students are first introduced to the GLOBE curriculum as part of their STEM certificate coursework.

They gain hands-on practice using it with children during EcoSTARS, and they often serve as a mentor to the classroom teacher who may be using GLOBE protocols for the first time. The initiative is funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and supported by the U.S. Department of State.

Feb. 2, 2011 by Julie Michener

See also: Education, STEM