UI, Micron Pilot Programs Support STEM Education in Three Idaho Communities

Wednesday, June 5 2013

MOSCOW, Idaho – University of Idaho’s science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM – Education Research Initiative is launching innovative programs in three Idaho communities to support student academic success and increase interest in STEM education.  

The programs, which begin this month, are part of a five-year project funded by a $1.2 million Micron Foundation gift.

In Jerome, a three-day summer camp for preschool Head Start students will focus on science. In Post Falls, online resources will assist parents in navigating techniques used in the new Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. In Lewiston, students will compete for prizes for the best student-produced informative YouTube videos featuring community members who have STEM-related jobs.

The innovation projects reflect the mid-point of the Micron STEM Initiative. The project’s early research included focus groups with parents, teachers and community members in 12 Idaho counties, followed by telephone surveys. Researchers also surveyed fourth, seventh and tenth graders, their parents and teachers statewide.

“The world is facing complex problems that require a STEM-literate citizenry,” said Susan Stauffer, a UI research associate with the Micron STEM Initiative. “With growing populations and limited resources, people need to make informed decisions in their personal lives and in the voting booth on issues from the environment to medicine.”

The innovation projects are based on findings from the focus groups and surveys. While the results show strong statewide support for increased public education funding and STEM education efforts, Idahoans revealed conflicting attitudes about their levels of trust in science and scientists.

Students’ responses showed a decline in positive attitudes toward and experiences with math and science between seventh and tenth grade, with girls reporting a more dramatic decrease than boys. Also, Hispanic students in seventh and tenth grades were statistically less likely to have positive experiences with and hold positive attitudes toward math and science.

In Kootenai County – the site of the Post Falls project – 49 percent of parents indicated that their own level of math and science knowledge made it challenging to assist their children with homework. Instructional videos target two of the Common Core mathematical practices, giving parents strategies to support their children as they approach challenging math problems.
Jerome’s three-day bilingual summer science camp reflects the community’s growing Hispanic population. The camp also responds to survey findings that revealed parents in Jerome strongly support their children’s education but a majority, 72 percent, described difficulty with helping their children in school given their own math and science knowledge.  

The YouTube video campaign in Lewiston also is informed by survey findings from Nez Perce County where a third of parents said they were unsure of what classes a student should take to be successful in college.  The student-produced videos will inform parents, students, and community members about both college and career preparation by featuring the educational and career paths of local STEM professionals.

Corinne Mantle-Bromley, UI’s dean of education and co-director of the Micron STEM Initiative, said the findings from these pilot projects will help researchers better understand the problems as well as the most promising next steps for improvement. 

“The hope certainly is that the Micron-funded research leads to changes across the state that leads to improved access to the STEM fields, that leads to increased interest in the STEM fields, that leads to additional funding, where we can do really major state projects,” Mantle-Bromley said. “Because of the ground-breaking research, we now have a baseline for the state, so we know a lot about the state landscape that we didn’t know earlier.”

For more information on the U-Idaho Micron STEM Education Research Initiative and findings, visit www.uidaho.edu/research/stem/micronstemed.
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Media Contact: Tara Roberts, University Communications, (208) 885-7725, troberts@uidaho.edu; Melinda Hamilton, Director of STEM Education Initiatives, (208) 885-7803, mhamilton@uidaho.edu 

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.