New York Tech Supports K-8 STEM Education Through $3.75 Million in State Grants

July 28, 2021

New York Institute of Technology will work with school districts across Nassau County on teacher training initiatives that were recently granted more than $3.75 million in funding by New York State Department of Education (NYSED)’s Smart Start Grant Program. The program aims to enhance teachers’ ability to spark STEM enthusiasm and impart skills among younger students, especially those who belong to groups underrepresented in STEM fields.

The two programs culminate work that Assistant Professor and Education Department Chair Robert Feirsen and Professor Stan Silverman have been doing since 2019 to help school districts plan professional development for K-8 teachers. The NYSED grants will fund the programs—which seek to train more than 600 teachers to engage young learners in science and technology and put more students on the path to high-tech careers—through 2026.

Teachers selected to participate in both programs will train other teachers at their schools, creating an even greater ripple effect on behalf of Long Island’s high-tech economy.

Students Soar with STEM Success

One of the two programs, led by Nassau BOCES called “Students Soar with STEM Success” (4S), received a grant of $2.5 million for the next five years. In the 4S program, Feirsen will work with a group of 16 school districts (67 schools and more than 500 teachers) to tailor offerings to the needs of specific districts to improve outcomes in computer science, educational technology, and engineering.

About 40 percent of students at 4S schools are economically disadvantaged, and have significant numbers of students with disabilities or learning English as a second language. Feirsen and colleagues at Nassau BOCES investigated needs at these schools before developing the 4S program. “To improve Long Island’s economy, we need highly skilled, educated workers,” said Feirsen. “But too many students, even in successful schools, are graduating without enough knowledge of STEM subjects. That’s because to be successful in high school math, science, engineering, and technology courses, students need a strong elementary and middle school background in these subjects.”

The planned 4S in-service training includes regional workshops; online professional development; coaching and feedback delivered to teachers; and turn-key professional development provided by teachers selected and trained for this role. The latter group of teacher-trainers will also benefit from a three-credit graduate course at New York Tech.

A second grant of $1.25 million was awarded to the Freeport Public Schools Consortium, working with Silverman and other New York Tech experts. This program targets 22 schools in three districts. Almost all have a higher-than-average percentage of minorities underrepresented in STEM; free and reduced school lunch eligible students; and students who are learning English as a second language. Census data indicates that these schools’ families are more likely to be non-native speakers of English, with lower incomes and less formal education.

More than 100 teachers participating in the Freeport Public Schools Consortium will receive 20 face-to-face hours of professional development in teaching, with at least eight hours of coaching and modeling in the classroom. In addition, every day after school, New York Tech will open Zoom rooms for teachers to ask questions and seek support. This program’s core content will be computer science and computational thinking.

To bring more hands-on STEM experiences to teachers and students, New York Tech’s “STEAMed Van” will make regular visits to Freeport Consortium schools. (STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art and math; “ed” is for education.) Bearing an image of Jim Davis’s famous Garfield the Cat, the van is a “traveling computer lab” equipped with the latest educational technologies, such as 3-D printers and scanners; a laser cutter; Vernier probeware; mini mills; Makey Makey creative kits; robots; Arduino kits; and wearable e-textile computers. It is staffed by New York Tech trainers and students in the STEM disciplines.

 “Students in these districts would greatly benefit from the additional training and expanded opportunities this program offers as they prepare for the rigor required to study advanced science and math,” said Silverman. “The Long Island Regional Economic Council noted in October 2019 that biotechnology and life sciences will be growth industries in years to come. By training teachers and improving STEM instruction, we’re helping students lay a solid foundation in STEM. In years to come, they will have a real chance to prepare them for high-level STEM-based jobs.”

About New York Institute of Technology

New York Institute of Technology's six schools and colleges offer undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree programs in in-demand disciplines including computer science, data science, and cybersecurity; biology, health professions, and medicine; architecture and design; engineering; IT and digital technologies; management; and energy and sustainability. A nonprofit, independent, private, and nonsectarian institute of higher education founded in 1955, it welcomes nearly 8,000 students worldwide. The university has campuses in New York City and Long Island, New York; Jonesboro, Arkansas; and Vancouver, British Columbia, as well as programs around the world.

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