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U.S. Grant for STEM Ed. Targets Baltimore Elementary Schools

The National Science Foundation is providing $7.4 million to promote improved STEM education in nine Baltimore elementary schools, an effort led by Johns Hopkins University with support from a set of community partners.

The five-year project includes professional development for teachers, as well as curricular enhancements and training to enable after-school providers to augment STEM learning through activities with children in the local community, according to a press release issued today. For example, students might study environmental science in class and build on this with a project to improve local water quality.

"Our aim is that this partnership will build excitement around science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in our communities and empower children and families to engage their world through these activities," Michael Falk, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at Johns Hopkins University, said in the release. "Our hope is that this model could eventually be extended to other school systems around the country."

The new grant comes at a time of increased interest in promoting STEM learning at the elementary level. A report issued in 2011 called the math and science competency of elementary teachers a "blind spot in our country's STEM policy."

Last year, the NSF committed $2.9 million to study a program at Western Washington University that prepares elementary teachers in science. In addition, I blogged last year about several private grants to support St. Catherine University's National Center for STEM Elementary Education.

Beyond the school district and university, the Baltimore initiative involves many other partners, including parents, after-school providers, community groups, local business leaders, and experts from the Maryland Science Center and the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

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