There is a national push to identify methods improving STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education in order to equip American students with the skills and qualities necessary to support 21st century professions. Rural communities of South Dakota and the Northern Plains are experiencing workforce growth across healthcare, research, and technology-related fields. Even traditional agriculture and food production methods have become rich with biotechnology and biochemical procedures for crop development and maintenance. Due to geographic isolation, economic status of rural communities is tightly associated with the prosperity of local industry. Thus, there is an urgent need to put strong support systems in place that promote student learning, motivation, and relate science content towards relevant regional industries and applications. The goal of the proposal is to improve South Dakota science teacher effectiveness through research opportunities in pediatric health and professional development to enhance inquiry-based classroom learning. These actions require partnerships between school districts (community, teachers, administrators), state government, research scientists, and science education experts. Sanford Research/USD is establishing an impressive transdisciplinary pediatric research focus across public health, basic science, and clinical areas. The Sanford PROMISE (Program for the Midwest Initiative in Science Exploration) was recently established by Sanford Research/USD to promote community awareness of the benefits of research to society through science outreach. Therefore, Sanford Research/USD is in an ideal position to offer a summer research fellowship for science educators due to their commitment to excellence in translational pediatric research and science outreach expertise represented by The Sanford PROMISE. We hypothesize that experience and training in pediatric research will provide science teachers with the necessary skills to enrich classroom instruction through increased utilization of inquiry-based instruction, thereby enhancing student cognition and motivation towards science and STEM fields.
This proposal investigates the impact of pediatric research training experiences (represented by a summer fellowship) on South Dakota science teacher effectiveness in order to equip rural students with necessary 21st century workforce skills. This requires a partnership between pediatric researchers at Sanford Research/USD, The Sanford PROMISE, school districts (community, teachers, administrators), and the South Dakota Department of Education. By creating novel pediatric research and professional development opportunities for science educators, we hope improve student cognition and motivation in STEM areas, thereby promoting economic prosperity across rural communities of the Northern Plains by inspiring the workforce of future generations.