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Federal award helps APSU improve K-8 science, math education throughout area

12/8/2009

The Austin Peay State University College of Education recently received $476,000 in federal funding to provide state-of-the art science and mathematics instruction to K-8 preservice teachers and professional development workshops and courses for elementary and middle school teachers.

“We are very excited about this award,†APSU President Tim Hall said. “It reinforces the University’s historic strength as a place where teachers learn to teach. It also recognizes the University’s increasing prominence in the area of undergraduate science and math education.â€
The Austin Peay State University College of Education recently received $476,000 in federal funding to provide state-of-the art science and mathematics instruction to K-8 preservice teachers and professional development workshops and courses for elementary and middle school teachers.

“We are very excited about this award,” APSU President Tim Hall said. “It reinforces the University's historic strength as a place where teachers learn to teach. It also recognizes the University's increasing prominence in the area of undergraduate science and math education.”

The congressional award was the result of two years of lobbying to improve science and math education for preservice teachers. The award was the result of the support of Congressman John Tanner of Tennessee's 8th District.

“This is the largest award the College of Education has ever received. We are very grateful to Congressman Tanner for his support,” Dr. Carlette Hardin, interim dean of the College of Education, said. “This funding allows us to provide the very best instruction for our students.”

The funding provides for several major projects, including the purchase of science and mathematics technology equipment and supplies for a new science laboratory in the Claxton Building. Currently workers are removing bookshelves and desks from a classroom, and in the next few weeks they will install new tile and cabinets, sinks, refrigerators, eyewash stations and lab tables with ports for laptop computers.

“For years we have wanted to create a science and mathematics teaching laboratory that would allow us to teach our students in the best facilities possible and this funding has allowed that dream to come true,” Hardin said.

In January, APSU education students will enter the new lab to train in a hands-on environment, much like what they'll find in local public schools.

“We have the very best teacher candidates and they deserve the best space in which to learn,” Dr. Rebecca McMahan, program director and chair of the APSU Department of Teaching and Learning, said.

Sheila Pirkle, the other co-director for the project, added, “We need to be able to provide our students with state-of-the-art facilities so they are fully prepared to go out and teach science.” Pirkle co-wrote the award proposal with McMahan, and she will have office space next to the new lab.

The award also supports professional development programs, which will take place beginning in June 2010. Teachers will earn stipends while participating in two weeks of full-day mathematic- and science-integrated study. Problem-based learning will be modeled and the new mathematics and science state content standards will be the focus.

The workshops will be facilitated by Pirkle and Dr. Anne Assad, assistant professor in the mathematics department and mathematics education specialist, who co-directs the program.

The award is timely in the wake of studies that reveal deficits in science and mathematics instruction in grades K-8. The ultimate and long-range goal of the project is to better prepare teachers to encourage and educationally sustain students in grades K-8 to progress through school and eventually enter fields that are STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) focused.

“The award allows us to make an investment in the education and training of teachers, which will have many returns,” McMahan said. “The state-of-the-art facility elevates the position of science education to the level of attention that it deserves in teacher education programs. The facility and training model will be shared nationally as an exemplary example of the efforts to train our nation's future teachers.”

For more information on the award and the project, contact McMahan at 931-221-7513 or mcmahanb@apsu.edu. -- Charles Booth