Program Overview

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The Departments of Mechanical Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Geology and Geological Engineering, Chemical and Biological Engineering, and Chemistry and Applied Biological Sciences at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology (SDSM&T) have partnered with the local secondary school districts, including high-need schools, in South Dakota to develop a professional development program for 6-12th grade science and mathematics teachers in response to National Science Foundation sponsored Research Experience for Teachers (RET) in Engineering and Computer Science. This Sustainable Development- Research Experience for Teachers (SD-RET) program introduces emerging sustainable technologies within engineering and science into the 6-12th grade science and mathematics curriculum in rural America.

Many children in rural areas, such as South Dakota, become interested in STEM disciplines while watching their parents and/or neighbors work with machinery, fix engines, and build sturdy structures on farms and ranches. K-12 STEM education is responsible to prepare the students for STEM majors in college and become productive and creative engineers/scientists. Unfortunately, a large number of students are deficient in mathematics and science skills. For example, more than 30% and 60% of the students were not proficient in science and mathematics, respectively, in 2014-2015 school year in South Dakota.

Engineering and scientific research applies mathematical concepts and principles in engineering and science to solve real-world problems. When these subjects are integrated into 6-12th grade curricula, the students learn to connect the abstract principles to practical aspect of science and mathematics and consequently become more motivated to learn more about STEM subjects. However, many K-12 teachers, especially those teaching in rural America, do not have sufficient research experience in the science or engineering fields to design and implement related science/technology projects in the classroom. In 2015, approximately 747 (out of 44,227) core courses were taught by non-highly qualified (NHQ) teachers in South Dakota, which is particularly not negligible since teaching quality is one of the primary factors that impact students’ learning efficiency and interest. No NHQ teachers in K-12 schools is the ultimate goal for all states as required by No Child Left Behind.

The primary goal of the project is to improve teaching efficacy in middle and high schools through a comprehensive collaborative professional development program that includes lab-based research experience in engineering and science and an interactive graduate course on curriculum design and pedagogy.

The specific objectives of the SD-RET program are the followings:

  • Objective 1: Assist teachers in applying their engineering and science research skills to developing curricula based on national and state standards;
  • Objective 2: Measure the effect of the SD-RET experience on teachers’ attitudes toward engineering and science as well as their competencies in developing and implementing an integrated curriculum;
  • Objective 3: Measure the effect of the new curricula on middle and high school students’ attitudes, level of achievement, and engagement in STEM.
  • Objective 4: Create opportunities for middle and high school science and mathematics teachers to partner with research faculty in engineering and science laboratories at SDSM&T and industries partners to expand laboratory skills.
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South Dakota School
of Mines & Technology

Department of Mechanical