URI Receives $1.5 Million for Marine and Environmental Graduate Teaching Fellows Program

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — September 13, 1999 — The University of Rhode Island has been awarded a $1.5 million grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create a K-12 Marine and Environmental Graduate Teaching Fellows program. The project established by the three-year grant will be a collaboration among the URI Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO), the URI Office of Marine Programs (OMP), and fourteen URI marine and environmental academic departments. The $1.5 million provides a full fellowship and stipend for twelve graduate teaching assistants per year for three years. The graduate fellows are future scientists who will take an active role in preparing students for meaningful careers in science, math, engineering, and technology fields. Project leaders are GSO Associate Dean John Merrill, OMP Associate Director of Marine and Environmental Education Gail Scowcroft, and OMP Director Sara Hickox. Under the guidance of faculty mentors, graduate fellows will be matched with elementary, middle, and high school teachers in the school districts of Warwick, Providence, Westerly, and Newport. The project will reach more than 270 teachers and 13,300 students and their parents through a series of formal and informal marine and environmental education activities. “This national program was initiated by the Director of the National Science Foundation, Dr. Rita Colwell, to provide opportunities for grade school and high school students and teachers to have assistance in teaching science from graduate students in the nation’s top science programs,” said Margaret Leinen, vice provost for Marine Programs and dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography. “We are proud to have been selected as one of the first universities to participate in the program. Our students and faculty are looking forward to sharing their enthusiasm for marine and environmental science with Rhode Island teachers and students.” “I am delighted that the NSF has funded our proposal,” said Project Director Scowcroft. “These funds will allow us to further our mission of bringing current and topical scientific research into Rhode Island schools. This project has some unique aspects. Not only will we prepare graduate students in the sciences to share their scientific expertise with a variety of audiences, but we will also be able to provide professional development opportunities for teachers.” The ultimate goal of the project is to increase K-12 science literacy, encourage critical thinking focusing on marine and environmental subject areas, introduce innovative teaching methods to educators, and provide information and tools for teaching science outside the classroom. While the project emphasizes using marine and environmental topics to enhance traditional student and teacher learning, teachers will also receive instruction in using the Internet to access educational resources and evaluate them for use in the classroom. Graduate fellows will also introduce teachers and students to other research technologies, including GIS, remote sensing, and scientific instruments used in the laboratory and in the field. “I am extremely grateful for the overwhelming number of faculty who agreed to give their time to mentoring the project’s graduate teaching fellows,” said Scowcroft. “We have more than 78 oceanographers, biologists, chemists, physicists, geologists, engineers, community planners, and environmental scientists involved. I can’t think of another university project with such a breadth of diversity.” For More Information: Lisa Cugini, 401-874-6642