Wednesday, June 22, 2011

WC to Develop Computer Mapping Course to Bolster STEM Learning n Elementary Schools

CHESTERTOWN, MD—The College’s Education Department and Geographic Information Systems Lab (GIS) will collaborate on a science and engineering initiative for Maryland’s public elementary schools, thanks to a new grant from the state. Michelle Johnson, the Education Department’s Coordinator of Field Experiences, wrote the successful grant proposal, which provides $76,251.20 in funding over four years. She will be working with GIS Lab director Stewart Bruce and analyst Samantha Bulkilvish to adapt and broaden the program’s “What is GIS?” course to appeal to elementary school teachers.

The grant from the Maryland Department of Education is part of an overall federal and state initiative to introduce and bolster more effective teaching of what educators refer to as STEM—an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. “STEM-influenced classrooms integrate science and engineering into the curriculum in ways that encourage inquiry and problem solving over rote learning and memorization,” explains Johnson. “At the elementary level, the goals are to make the classroom work engaging, stimulate the students’ curiosity, get them engaged in the scientific method, and introduce careers in the STEM areas."
“It is also teaching perseverance,” adds Johnson. “In science, there are few quick and easy answers. Instead, it’s a process of trial and error, of posing questions and persisting until you find the solution.”
In addition to the online course being developed in the Washington College GIS Lab, the grant also will support field experience for education students. As part of the required “Education 212: Field Experience” course, students will be able to learn the GIS curriculum and take it into the elementary-level classroom to work directly with the children and their teachers. Johnson and her Washington College colleagues will network with peers from other colleges and universities that offer teacher certification to help the state design STEM certification programs for Maryland’s elementary schools.
GIS is a computerized mapping system that stores, displays and analyzes any type of data that has a geographic location. Using sophisticated software, it can take data from a table, spreadsheet, or database and create a map, allowing the viewer to better visualize and understand the information in a useful way. For more information:
Photo: Elementary Education Field Experiences Coordinator Michelle Johnson, middle, will work with GIS Program Coordinator Stewart Bruce and GIS Educator Samantha Bulkilvish to create engaging online courses in computer mapping for elementary school students in Maryland. The goal is to bolster learning in STEM areas--science, technology, engineering and math.