95th ESA Annual Meeting (August 1 -- 6, 2010)

OOS 42-10 - Challenges and strategies at Colorado State University

Thursday, August 5, 2010: 11:10 AM
315-316, David L Lawrence Convention Center
John Moore, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO and Kimberly Melville-Smith, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, CO
Background/Question/Methods   Our GK-12 program is a partnership between Colorado State University, the University of Northern Colorado (UNC), the Greeley School District-6, and the Poudre School District. Our program is housed at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory (NREL) as an important element of its environmental literacy initiative, and represents a significant component of the education and outreach efforts of the Shortgrass Steppe Long Term Ecological Research (SGS-LTER) program at Colorado State University. Currently, our program supports 16 graduate fellows and involves 58 teachers in 24 schools. We promote environmental literacy through basic research in student learning, direct engagement with K-12 teachers and students, and curriculum reform.

Results/Conclusions   We have institutionalized our GK-12 activities by preserving the intent of the program to support graduate fellows but shifted the focus to one that balances the needs of the K-12 community with the needs of faculty within higher education. First, we involved the K-12 community in the development and implementation of the program (e.g., two of our PIs are district personnel). Second, we formalized the environmental literacy initiatives within the NREL and the SGS-LTER, thereby engaging graduate students, faculty, administrators, K12 teachers and administrators, and providing a clear sense of how activities like the GK-12 served both higher education and K-12. These steps facilitated the following activities: 1) develop of professional development workshops and short course that serve both graduate students and teacher needs, 2) development of graduate degree programs at CSU and UNC for K-12 Teachers, 3) embedding the GK-12 experience into graduate fellowships (NSF and State MSP programs, USDA National Need Fellowship Program), 4) making the GK-12 experience a credit generating internship or service learning option, 5) development of a teacher-in-residence program that supports K-12 teacher sabbaticals at CSU and UNC, 6) coordinating research experiences for teachers (RET) requests from multiple scientists by providing access to the partnership and logistical support, 7) embedding research RET experiences directly into grant proposals (we became “brokers of broader impact”), and 8) obtaining GK-12 fellowships directly from CSU and UNC. In conclusion, the greatest challenge was in recognizing that the GK-12 program involved multiple stakeholders that shared common goals but who had to deal with different needs. Sustaining the program required finding the currency (stipends, graduate credit, infrastructure, and access to opportunities) to connect different educational institutions and cultures, and to find ways to operationalize the GK-12 activities within each.