News Item

Lander Gets MSP Grant

December 17, 2015

GREENWOOD — Lander University has been awarded an $87,000 Math and Science Partnership (MSP) grant by the South Carolina Department of Education.

The grant will fund a year-long partnership between Lander faculty members and local middle school science teachers. Lander science and teacher education faculty will work with local teachers to broaden their knowledge of science and current research on science teaching, in hopes of bolstering the science program in area middle schools.

MSP Grant1
MSP Program Director Dr. Cynthia Gardner, an associate professor of education at Lander, discusses a concept with Jenny Risinger, science coach for School District 50, and her fellow teachers.

The grant will pay for regular science workshops, team-teaching opportunities and professional development conferences, as well as a week-long, intensive summer camp where middle school teachers will engage in scientific research and explore ways of using it in their classes.

Grant money made it possible for the participating teachers to attend the National Science Teachers Association Convention, held in Columbia last month, and Lander has already hosted two workshops, one on biology and one on electricity and magnetism.

The needs of the teachers will determine the topics of future workshops, according to Lander Professor of Physics Dr. David Slimmer, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics.

Slimmer helped to write the grant, along with Associate Professor of Education Dr. Cynthia Gardner, Associate Professor of Education Dr. Lee Vartanian and School District 50 Science Coach Jenny Risinger. He said that while many high school science teachers have backgrounds in the discipline, many middle school science teachers do not.

“A lot of them were early elementary education majors that maybe took two or three science courses as an undergrad,” he said.

“There are simply not many programs preparing teachers for middle school science. It’s the way the system is working right now,” he said.

The South Carolina Department of Education sees the development of middle school science teachers as a critical need, according to Slimmer.

“They’re funding these types of endeavors because they recognize that there’s a problem,” he said.

Slimmer said that the grant is potentially renewable “based upon how we do or what effects we have.”

Middle school science teachers from other, nearby school districts will also be invited to participate in the program if the grant is renewed.

Local middle school science students will undergo Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) testing soon, then again at the end of the school year. “We’re hoping to see a change in their content knowledge,” Slimmer said, adding that the teachers who took part in the program will also be asked if they feel it was effective and helped them in their jobs.

He’s encouraged by the early results. When he taught physics in a workshop earlier this semester, he said, “I had a lot of people coming up asking questions, and I’ve gotten follow-up calls where people have asked to borrow equipment or have me to come in and talk to their class.”

Slimmer said it’s important for faculty members at Lander to “share what we know, what our expertise is, to make stronger students in the school district, which potentially makes stronger students for us down the line.”