Tools for Teachers
Since 2009, U.S. competitiveness in math and science has declined from 15th to 19th among the world's 144 most-advanced nations.
Carnegie Mellon University's Marc De Graef and Judith Hallinen are working to change that.
"We have created a program designed to help high school science teachers improve their content and skill knowledge," said De Graef, a professor of Materials Science and Engineering at CMU. "We need to pay more attention to math, science and engineering as U.S. student test scores in these fields continue to lag behind other advanced countries."
Hallinen provides support to DeGraef as he plans and implements a program enabling middle and high school teachers to integrate scanning electron microscopy into their classroom curriculums.
"Our new program, dubbed TACTILS (Teaching Advanced Characterization Tools in Local Schools) is working to stem the tide of declining competitiveness," said Hallinen, assistant vice provost for educational outreach and director of the Leonard Gelfand Center for Service Learning and Outreach.
In August, teachers from more than a dozen western Pennsylvania high schools attended a two-day workshop to learn how to integrate their curriculum with the high-powered images and data available through CMU's electron microscopy labs.
The project makes several microscope instruments as well as lesson plans available to certified teachers, either by means of loaning the microscope to the school or by using the microscope via remote control through a web browser.
"It was really great to access this high-tech equipment with real classroom work — like learning about what goes into food processing to even understanding the chemical formula in your favorite lip gloss," said Yvonne Costabile, a chemistry and physics teacher at Tech City Charter High School in Pittsburgh.
DeGraef said the program is designed to encourage more students to think about exciting careers in engineering, math and science. "Math and science are languages, and we can talk about anything in that language: taxes, shoe sales," DeGraef said.
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