Grant to Fund Purdue STEM Project

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The National Science Foundation has awarded a two-year, $1.1 million grant to Purdue University for a project to help underrepresented students learn about STEM. Purdue says approximately 300 students from William Penn Elementary School in Indianapolis will participate in the project.

The students, who will be in fourth through seventh grades, will use STEM to work on solving three real-world problems in their community, according to the university. The project will focus on food, health and the environment and Purdue says the students will be immersed in STEM studies including agricultural life science, physical science, engineering, computational science and mathematics.

"Our overall goal is to increase the number of underrepresented minority middle school students who are prepared for advanced secondary courses, as well as to major in STEM disciplines in college," said Levon Esters, an associate professor in the department of Youth Development and Agricultural Education at Purdue. "As students apply principles from agricultural life sciences and other STEM disciplines in the context of their community, their motivation and self-efficacy will increase."

Purdue says the project will also include professional development sessions for teachers to help increase their confidence and competence in STEM subjects. The project stems from research that shows early experiences among underrepresented students can have a significant impact on their decision to pursue STEM-related careers.

"Agricultural life sciences are interdisciplinary areas that have largely been underexplored as a culturally relevant context for underrepresented minority students in K-12 settings," said Esters. "But agriculture and other life sciences have to feed and provide energy for more than 9 billion people by 2050. This problem is relevant across local communities, across cultures, and addresses global challenges of food security and environmental sustainability."

The project will be developed and implemented in collaboration with Indianapolis Public Schools, the city of Indianapolis, DowAgroSciences, Purdue Extension and the Indiana Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Resources Network.

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