Education Program

Objectives:PROGRAM GOALSMIT Sea Grant Education Programís vision is that citizens in Massachusetts and the region will learn through innovative hands-on opportunities to become ocean-literate and technologically literate creative problem solvers who will work locally to protect their coast and marine resources. The program goal is two fold: 1. To increase Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) ocean-literacy among the citizens of Massachusetts, fostering their ability to understand and make informed decisions about local marine resources and technology. 2. To provide workforce development for students, inspiring and training the next generation of marine scientists and engineers.OBJECTIVESMIT Sea Grant has outlined the following major objectives to fulfill the goals of the Education program:Objective 1 – Skill Building for Students: MIT Sea Grant will provide students with hands-on ocean science and engineering experiences aimed at introducing real world challenges and encouraging creative problem solving.Objective 2 ñ Training Teachers: MIT Sea Grant will increase the Commonwealthís capacity to inspire our youth to be environmentally couscous creative problem solvers by training both formal and informal educators. Objective 3 ñ Public Outreach: MIT Sea Grant will continue to bring relevant and current information about ocean science, engineering, and technology to the general public in interactive and engaging ways.Methodology:METHODOLOGYThrough our education program, we approach the mission of workforce development and ocean literacy through a variety of programs. The programs aim to impacting large numbers of general public in a broad way as well as target smaller numbers of teachers and students with in-depth, project based experiences. The general public is reached through information material as well as hands on displays at local science events throughout the year. Professional development trainings and curriculum are provided to educators to assist them in bringing meaningful ocean STEM projects to their students. Students are additionally reached directly through MIT Sea Grant sponsored programming throughout the year.The content of the programming is primarily focused on Marine Science or Ocean Engineering. Programming aims to emphasize the importance of ocean literacy, teach applicable science and engineering skills, introduce creative problem solving, and focus on real world challenges. As a result marine science fieldwork and engineering design are the cornerstones of our programming for educators, students, and general public.MIT Sea Grant focuses on training and public outreach that brings current and unique science and technology out of the laboratory and into the hands of students, professionals and the general public. Our efforts include an engineering education component for which we receive outside funds and a smaller marine science component. Rationale:RATIONALEThere is a general consensus among educators, policy makers, and industry leaders in the United States that K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education must be improved to remain competitive in and increasingly technology dependent global economy (NAE, 2009). Major long-term goals of this effort include both increasing the quality and quantity of STEM professionals as well as increasing STEM literacy among students and the general public.Within STEM education there are two subject areas extremely important to MIT Sea Grantís mission that are unfortunately underrepresented in traditional K-12 education: ocean science and engineering. MIT Sea Grant uses hands on projects to increase studentís, teacherís, and the general publicís knowledge and value of these subjects.The Need for Engineering EducationMIT Sea Grantís education programming puts a strong emphasis on bringing ocean engineering to the K-12 classroom and general public. Within the effort to improve K-12 STEM education, engineering has been somewhat neglected and has only recently begun to make its way into elementary and secondary schools. Nationwide few people think of engineering as a K-12 subject, very few schools expose students to engineering basics, and very few K-12 teachers are engaged in engineering education (NAE, 2009). Though we interact with the products of engineering in our everyday lives, students and the general public know very little about what engineers do (Knight & Cunningham, 2004). Very few students come in contact with working engineers and accordingly have incorrect notions and stereotypes about engineers ñ engineers are nerds, engineers have to be geniuses, engineering requires no knowledge of business or the environment (Hirsh et al., 2003). Cited potential benefits to students of including engineering education in K-12 are improved learning and achievement in science and mathematics; increased awareness of engineering and the work of engineers; understanding of and ability to engage in engineering design; interest in pursuing engineering as a career; and increased technological literacy (NAE, 2009). Through expert discussions and a curricula review, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) has defined four criteria necessary for effective K-12 engineering programs: engaging students in the engineering-design process; including systems, constraints, analysis, modeling, optimization, and tradeoffs as key concepts central to engineering; including meaningful instances of mathematics, science, and technology; and presenting engineering as relevant to individuals or society at large. The MIT Sea Grant Education programs are developed to incorporate these four criteria into our hands on projects and programs.The Need for Ocean Science EducationEmbodied within our commitment to engineering education, is the need to increase awareness of the ocean and the goods and services it provides. The general lack of awareness about the significance of the ocean to life on earth is due in large part to ocean science being the most underrepresented science discipline in K-16 education curriculum across the country (Ocean Literacy 2005). Raising awareness of the ocean and the environment dovetails with our engineering education emphasis and can serve as a model for understanding the research process and developing critical thinking skills (Paytan 2006).The Need for Teacher Professional DevelopmentEducators are the key to transmitting ocean literacy and technology literacy to students. Unfortunately, many educators are not prepared or comfortable teaching ocean science or ocean engineering in the classroom. Many teachers are teaching out-of-field in some or all of their disciplines (Ingersoll, 2001). In the case of engineering education, there are not formal pre-service education programs preparing teachers to teach engineering in the K-12 setting and educators from non engineering disciplines are often uncomfortable with the open-endedness of engineering design projects and fear that engineering is too difficult for them or their students to learn (Benenson and Neujahr, 2007; Cunningham, 2009). In the case of marine science, K-12 science standards and formal pre-service training do place strong emphasize on the importance of the ocean and ocean science.We feel that teachers need additional training in the field of ocean sciences and engineering to ensure that they are skilled in current content and knowledge that can be taught to the students. By offering advanced training to teachers on new technology and current issues that relate to the ocean science and engineering, MIT Sea Grant is creating links to content, industry, and career paths that might not have been as accessible to teachers and students in the past.Informal Science and Engineering EducationIn addition to in school programming, informal education provides a great opportunity to support increasing studentís interest and understanding of engineering and marine science. The U.S. Department of Education cites informal education as one of the three integral pieces of the U.S. education system necessary to ensure economic competitiveness and STEM literate citizens (DOEd, 2007). Informal learning environments, such as clubs and summer camps, allow individuals to explore content in a contextually relevant, collaborative, in-depth, nonlinear, and open-ended way ñ all traits which align with the practice of engineering and science education. Offering informal education programming outside of school is extremely important in exposing students to engineering and marine science. Out-of-school programs are useful to students who may not have opportunities at their school or in their community but who are looking for an opportunity to get a taste of engineering and science or increase their skills and knowledge. The informal environment also supports the project-based learning environment that is essential for teaching engineering and scientific practice. DiversityIn the United States, engineers historically have been predominantly white males. It is well documented that women, African Americans, and Hispanics are significantly underrepresented in the profession as well as in engineering schools. This is true of other STEM disciplines as well. The number of underrepresented minorities and girls who participated in K-12 engineering education efforts is well below their distribution in the general population. Additionally, curricular materials do not portray engineering in ways that seem likely to excite the interest of students from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Ethnicity and gender are important factors in the development of a personís self-efficacy, identity, approach to learning, and career aspirations (Bandura et al., 1999; Maple and Stage, 1991). Exposing students to engineering activities that draw on their personal and cultural experiences is likely to improve their understanding of engineering and also make engineering more appealing as a potential career (EWEP, 2005; NAE, 2008).Gender preferences in relation to technology and engineering are well documented. Boys are more interested in how technologies work, while girls are more interested in socially relevant technologies. Boys are more motivated by competition, while girls prefer collaborative work (Weber and Custer, 2005). Girls are more interested in topics related to the environment, people, and the application of this knowledge to social conditions than are boys (Shroyer, Backe, & Powell, 1995).MIT Sea Grants education projects are developed to appeal to minorities by integrating collaborative work and the social relevance of engineering and marine science. Additionally specific programs will target minority audiences.General PublicBeyond the classroom, there is a need to provide newly released information on current news and research events to the public. With fisheries, aquaculture, invasive species, restoration and ocean technology topics relevant to the Northeast, the MIT Sea Grant Education program is well situated to demonstrate the pr