Students playing with blocks with their teacher

A team of three University of Northern Iowa faculty members have been awarded a one-year grant of $66,682 from the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program to participate in a Noyce Capacity Project that aims to address the national need to develop an Elementary Master STEM Teacher Leader program in Iowa. 

The Noyce Grant, which is part of the National Science Foundation, supports the overall effort to recruit and prepare K-12 STEM teachers. For Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction Dana Atwood-Blaine, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Dawn Del Carlo and Department Head of Curriculum and Instruction Robin Dada, receiving the grant highlights UNI’s focus and expertise in STEM and its dedication to increasing the number of teachers with these capabilities. 

The primary goals of the capacity-building project are determining the status of elementary STEM instruction in Iowa, especially in high-need schools, and laying the groundwork for developing a successful Noyce Track 3 Master Teaching Fellowship grant proposal, which would likely be submitted in fall 2023. Not only will this project help elementary teachers become STEM teacher leaders, but it will also benefit preservice teachers who are working toward obtaining their teaching licenses. 

"Iowa has been focused on PK-8 STEM education for a while, with programs such as Scale-Up, STEM Teacher of the Year, and Computer Science is Elementary. It's time to find out from those in the field what the impact of these programs has been for our high-need elementary schools and what principals and teachers perceive as obstacles to high-quality STEM education in their schools,” said Atwood-Blaine, who is the principal investigator on the grant.

Applying for this Noyce grant was important for the sake of students majoring in elementary education at UNI, she added. She believes that all too often language arts and math are prioritized over STEM subjects in elementary schools, meaning that many elementary preservice teachers don’t get the chance to observe science or integrated STEM teaching during their field experiences prior to student teaching and certification. The Preparing Elementary STEM Teacher Leaders project will help create a highly qualified network of Elementary STEM teachers that can support the improvement of elementary STEM instruction in Iowa.

In July, Atwood-Blaine and Del Carlo will all attend the 20th Anniversary Noyce Summit in Washington, D.C. to learn about successful Noyce projects from all across the country. After returning from the conference, they will send a survey to all Iowa elementary principals based on Horizon Research’s 2018 National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education. This data will be used to design a Master Elementary STEM Teacher Leader program that is tailored to meet the needs of Iowa's elementary schools.

The group will also work with mentors at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who have received several Noyce grants in the past. 

Contact:

Stacy McGauvran-Hruby, Marketing & Communications Manager, College of Education, mcgauvrs@uni.edu, 319-273-7615.