Commonwealth Campus Center Nodes (C3N) Program
In 2021 CAIMS partnered with the Center for Medical Innovation (Penn State College of Medicine) to form one of the University's eight nodes. The overarching goal of the C3N Program is to build partnerships between University based research centers and Commonwealth Campus faculty nodes. All University centers participating in this program have tremendous experience in securing and managing external research funding from a variety of agencies, industry, and other organizations. Further, these centers are hubs for conducting cutting-edge research in a given technical area, resulting in high-impact journal publications and multi-million dollar external funding. Thus, these centers provide great opportunities for networking, building research partnerships, and creating large team efforts that span across the campuses.
The first research project resulting from this CAIMS/Center for Medical Innovation node was titled, "Using Physical Computing to Teach How a Heart Functions: A Professional Development Experience for High School Biology Teachers". This was an initial step to leverage faculty expertise from Penn State Harrisburg and the College of Medicine to provide unique STEM learning experiences and resources at no cost to high schools across the Commonwealth. It also provided opportunities to research the impact of interdisciplinary teaching and learning experiences within the context of biomedical engineering and computational thinking.
School of Science, Engineering, and Technology (Penn State Harrisburg)
- STEM Summer Enrichment Program
- Electronics/Robotics Competition
- NSF STEM Scholarships to underrepresented students interested in science, technology, engineering and math
- After school Science and Engineering Clubs
- Placement of SEPA students for laboratory experiences
- Opportunities for partnership grants
Penn State College of Medicine
In 2006 CAIMS+ formed an alliance with the Penn State College of Medicine, informed by a shared concern about the crisis in science education and the waning interest in careers in science, particularly health sciences, at all levels.
This partnership has resulted in a National Institutes of Health Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA grant), providing professional development and graduate credits to teachers and interactive laboratory experiences for students.
This alliance has since expanded to include several area schools in the Capital Area Region, and a number of universities in the Mid-Atlantic Region who also are holders of SEPA grants.
CAIMS+ has become a member of MAR-SEPA (Mid-Atlantic Region of the Science Education Partnership Award), grantees sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. This has provided opportunities to meet with colleagues throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region and to form alliances that will become part of the network for our proposed pre-K—post-doctoral pipeline.
CAIMS+ continues to play an ever expanding role in the Mid-Atlantic Region group of SEPA grant holders with its chairman a member of our Penn State College of Medicine partnership.
STEM Learning Coalition
Perhaps the most exciting venture on whose cusp we stand is the expectation of using CAIMS+ as the springboard to institutionalize a life sciences continuum with the ultimate goal of delivering all levels of science through a comprehensive innovative curriculum. This science education plan, that is both horizontal and vertical, would optimize the preparation of students for science-related careers (while also addressing the need for science literacy at all levels and for authentic science education to target earlier grades).
The STEM Learning Coalition is an assemblage of education and business partners whose purpose is to stimulate interest and increase achievement in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology with the subsequent entry of school students into college majors in one or more of the STEM areas, followed by careers in a STEM-related field. This purpose will be achieved through the creation of a specialized curriculum, the professional development of teachers in the delivery of this curriculum, and mentoring of students and teachers.
- Penn State Harrisburg
- Harrisburg Area Community College
- Penn State Hershey College of Medicine
- Saladax Biomedical
- Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts
- Green Works Development
- Phoenix Contact
As this is a longitudinal study, the partners are beginning their journey with a STEM Pilot Program aimed at the young learners. The Pilot Program will engage selected schools in the Capital Region.
Research has shown that the most important element in increasing the achievement of students is through the professional development of teachers (Witmer, 2012). Research further indicates that the optimal age at which to initiate STEM education is pre-K (Clements & Sarama, 2011a; Tsamir et al, 2011, among others). Thus, the STEM Learning Coalition will focus part of its initial efforts on this age group while also developing sophisticated science curriculum and delivery through a pilot program with elementary school students (K-4th grade) and their teachers.
Some studies have also suggested that long-range support and mentoring of students is a factor in student success (Tsamir et al, 2011); thus, a formal mentoring component will be added when the initial test cohort reaches 4th grade.
Students will reach higher achievement scores in STEM-related subjects and will be more likely to enter STEM careers if their earliest level of schooling begins with teachers who are prepared to deliver both research-based content (designed by both practitioners in the STEM fields and in STEM education) and inquiry-based pedagogy in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology, along with mentoring, than will students who do not have teachers with this training.
Program Factors for the Pilot Test Group:
The factors of the STEM Learning Coalition Model that differ from typical STEM programs are that
- the STEM content is more content-sophisticated;
- the pedagogy is inquiry-based;
- science units will be co-taught by STEM practitioners;
- a formal mentoring element will be added in 4th grade; and
- the program will be offered pre-K-16, adding a grade each year.