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PRISM Program Bringing Innovative STEM Coursework & Projects to Vigo County Middle School Classrooms

June 12, 2013

Designing House

Designing Model Solar House: Vigo County middle school teacher Bonnie Ferree uses precise measurements when designing her team’s model solar house during the summer workshop, organized by Rose-Hulman’s PRISM program. (Photos by Dale Long)

An educational partnership with Rose-Hulman and the Vigo County School Corporation (VCSC), through an Indiana Department of Education Math Science Partnership grant, is providing middle school teachers the tools to integrate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts into local school curriculum.

Twenty five science, math, and technology teachers from VCSC's Sarah Scott, West Vigo, Woodrow Wilson, and Otter Creek middle schools are currently participating in a four-week summer intensive institute workshop.

Sessions are being provided by Rose-Hulman professors and staff associated with the institute's Portal Resource for Indiana Science and Mathematics (PRISM) program, which provides resources to assist teachers in learning more about STEM educational standards. 

"When you're talking STEM education, what better partner could we have than Rose-Hulman?" stated VCSC Math/Science Curriculum Coordinator John Newport. "With Rose-Hulman's leadership and support, we're bringing valuable educational tools into our middle school classrooms that will provide our students with a solid STEM education foundation."

Topics being covered during the summer workshop include:

House -Builders -1

Making Everything Fit: Middle school math teachers Chris Stanisz (left) and Charles Shacklee start building their model solar houses as part of a summer education workshop for Vigo County School Corporation teachers, organized by Rose-Hulman’s PRISM program.

This Week – Solar Structures: Erin Phelps, PhD, visiting assistant professor of chemical engineering, is providing lessons that reveal how the power of the sun can be harnessed to heat and cool a building. Teachers work in teams of "engineers" to design and are building their own solar houses out of everyday items. Then, they test their solar house, evaluate their results, and present their ideas to the class.

June 17-20 – Gravity Cruiser: Renee Rogge, PhD, associate professor of applied biology and biomedical engineering, will show how teams can design and construct a vehicle that is powered by gravity. A weighted lever connected to an axle by string rotates on its fulcrum. As the weight descends, it causes the axle attached to the string to rotate, propelling the cruiser forward. Concepts explored include potential and kinetic energy, friction, inertia, momentum, diameter, circumference, measurement, graphing, and constructing a prototype.

August 12-15 – Teachers' Workshop at Rose-Hulman: Teachers will work collaboratively and with curricula development coaches to finalize lessons. Teachers will also develop a range of assessment materials that reflect learning within the Common Core State Standards.

Last week (June 3-6), Physics and Optical Engineering Professor Maarij Syed, PhD, presented topics on how nanotechnology has impacted society and how engineers have learned to explore the world at the nanoscale.

House Builders2

Back In Classroom: Visiting chemical engineering professor Erin Phelps (middle) examines some of the building techniques in a model solar house being constructed this week by Vigo County School Corporation middle school teachers.

Participating teachers are spending a portion of their day field testing small learning units with a group of students attending summer enrichment programs at Sarah Scott. These trial-runs help teachers to make iterative improvements in their planned activities.  Also, teachers are able to work on aspects of delivery (pedagogy and methods) in a real-time environment.

"It's exciting in that teachers are able to apply all this new knowledge," stated Karen Goeller, VCSC deputy superintendent.

Indiana State University's School of Education will assess the program's effectiveness. Feedback–both data analysis and observations–will be provided to classroom teachers so that they can modify instruction and activities during the course of the three-year implementation. The Vigo County Education Foundation will also work with participating schools to establish reading and writing tutoring programs. Partners Advancing Literacy Skills (PALS) will help design the curriculum for these extended day programs.