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ISEP chosen to help launch national STEM learning initiative

Meghan Kern, left, works with a Buffalo Public Schools science teacher as part of the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership. Photo: Douglas Levere.

By MICHAEL ANDREI

Published September 24, 2015

“Having a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering and math extends beyond the classroom — it enables to us navigate our increasingly technological world and become an informed citizenry.”
Joseph A. Gardella Jr., ISEP project lead and UNY Distinguished Professor
Department of Chemistry

The Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership (ISEP), a collaboration led by UB, SUNY Buffalo State College, the Buffalo Museum of Science and the Buffalo Public Schools, has been selected as one of 27 learning communities across the country to launch the STEM Ecosystems Initiative, a national project that promotes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.

Led by the STEM Funders Network, the STEM Ecosystems Initiative is built on more than a decade of research into successful STEM collaborations. It seeks to nurture and scale effective STEM learning opportunities for all young people. The selected sites from across the United States have committed to collaborate and share their work toward this common vision.

The initiative is particularly for those who have not had equal opportunity to succeed in the STEM fields: young people of color, economically disadvantaged young people, girls and young people with disabilities.

The national STEM Ecosystems Initiative will kick off with an event at the White House Nov. 11-12 that ISEP representatives plan to attend.

ISEP is a teacher and student-focused initiative that seeks to improve STEM education in the Buffalo Public Schools. Other partners in ISEP include Roswell Park Cancer Institute; Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute; Praxair; Thermo/Life Technologies; Buffalo District Parent Coordinating Committee; WNY Service Learning Coalition; Niagara University; Daemen, Canisius and Medaille colleges; and Cradle Beach.

ISEP aims to make science exciting and engaging for students by giving teachers the training and resources needed to bring more hands-on and inquiry-based science activities into the classroom. With support from ISEP, Buffalo teachers have led their students in projects ranging from growing bacteria to designing and testing robots and miniature racecars.

“ISEP partners are honored to be a part of the first STEM Ecosystem Community of Practice,” says Joseph A. Gardella Jr., ISEP project lead, SUNY Distinguished Professor, and John and Francis Larkin Professor of Chemistry at UB. “This program builds in exciting ways on the collaborative work we are already doing through ISEP: strengthening and transforming STEM education in Buffalo Public Schools. As part of the expansion of our program in the STEM Ecosystem program, we will extend our model to rural schools with the help of the WNY STEM HUB, SUNY Fredonia and Jamestown Community College.

“Having a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering and math extends beyond the classroom — it enables to us navigate our increasingly technological world and become an informed citizenry,” Gardella says. “Creating strong STEM learning ecosystems will maximize, grow and connect STEM learning opportunities to all young people.”

The 27 communities comprising the initial cohort of a national STEM Community of Practice have demonstrated cross-sector collaborations to deliver rigorous, effective, preK-12 instruction in STEM learning in schools and beyond the classroom — in after-school and summer programs, science centers, libraries, at home and other places, both virtual and physical — that spark young people's engagement, develops their knowledge, strengthens their persistence and nurtures their sense of identity and belonging in the STEM disciplines. As these STEM ecosystems evolve, a student will be able to connect what they learn in and out of school with real-world learning opportunities leading to STEM-related careers and opportunities.

“The ISEP partnership in the Buffalo Public Schools allows our students to be involved in the upward trajectory of city of Buffalo’s STEM fields,” says Kriner Cash, Buffalo Public Schools superintendent.

“Our students and their teachers have benefitted from increased interaction in working with local scientists and engineers. They accomplish this through research-based teacher professional development that leads to more hands-on activity, and rigorous student work with graduate and undergraduate students in the classroom. I am happy that our school community will now become part of a wider scientific community with a broader shared knowledge and the ability to interact in exciting new ways.”

“Buffalo State has been nationally recognized for excellence in STEM teacher preparation,” notes Daniel L. MacIsaac, project co-principal investigator and associate professor of physics at Buffalo State. “And of course, it is an honor for ISEP to be among the 27 sites selected from among more than 70 applicants for the STEM Ecosystems Initiative’s first national Community of Practice.”   

Karen Wallace, interim president of the Buffalo Museum of Science, says the museum is honored to play “an integral role in the ISEP partnership and to serve as the STEM-rich institution for this STEM Ecosystem Initiative.”

“The museum and the Buffalo Public Schools have worked together since 1869. Through this program, we look forward to utilizing our unique resources to further enhance and connect STEM opportunities for all students.”