CU-Boulder Engineering Partners With Lafayette Schools To Enhance Math, Engineering, Science Achievement

Published: Nov. 10, 2004

An estimated 1,100 students at six Lafayette neighborhood schools are experiencing hands-on, inquiry-based instruction in engineering as part of a new partnership between the Integrated Teaching and Learning Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Boulder Valley School District.

The Technology and Engineering to Advance Math and Science (TEAMS) initiative involves students from the fourth to the 12th grade in a broad effort to improve math and science literacy and to increase the number of high school students who choose engineering or technology as a college path.

Despite soaring U.S. college enrollments, the number of undergraduates completing engineering degrees peaked in 1988, with fewer graduates today than 16 years ago, according to the American Society of Engineering Education. African American and Hispanic students comprise about 30 percent of the university student population nationwide, but account for less than 11 percent of 2003 bachelor's level engineering graduates.

The participation of women in engineering also has stalled, accounting for just over 20 percent of last year's graduates.

"The overarching goals of the TEAMS initiative are to use hands-on engineering experiences to make the science and math already taught in fourth- through eighth-grade classrooms come alive for youth from an applied, real-world perspective," said Jackie Sullivan, co-director of the Integrated Teaching and Learning Program. The initiative also promotes technological literacy to inspire Lafayette students to improve their educational prospects, Sullivan said.

Supported by a GK-12 grant from the National Science Foundation, CU-Boulder graduate and undergraduate engineering students augment classroom instruction with hands-on, inquiry-based engineering lessons developed and tested to meet state math and science standards.

The TEAMS initiative, coordinated by Cathie Williamson, expands on the goals of the existing Pre-Engineering Academy at Centaurus High School by expanding the teaching of engineering concepts to all students at Angevine Middle School and fourth- and fifth-graders at four neighborhood elementary schools-Lafayette, Pioneer, Ryan and Sanchez.

The Boulder Valley School District established the four-year Centaurus Pre-Engineering Academy supported by the ITL Program in 2002 to create a unique and challenging learning opportunity for students, preparing them for a technological future. Now in its third year, Centaurus' engineering magnet program enrolls a total of 140 students in grades 9 through 12.

"We couldn't be more excited about this partnership with CU engineering," said Chris King, assistant superintendent of Boulder Valley schools. "The TEAMS initiative dovetails nicely with our broader initiatives to expand opportunities in the Lafayette area."

The ITL Program at CU-Boulder has been working with elementary and middle school students and teachers in a variety of programs around the state for the last several years. The program has provided grant funding and/or course credit to engineering students to develop lesson plans that use engineering to integrate math and science in a practical way that students can relate to everyday life.

The ITL Program also has been leading a national initiative to create an online, digital library of pre-engineering curricula that could be used by teachers across the country.

Elements of the TEAMS initiative launched in Fall 2004 include:

∑ Weekly engineering instruction by CU engineering teaching fellows in 20 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade science classes at Angevine Middle School, enriching the current science and math experiences for some 600 students-and preparing them to take full advantage of the Centaurus engineering magnet program if they elect to do so in high school.

∑ CU engineering fellows making engineering come alive weekly in 16 fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms in four Lafayette neighborhood elementary schools-Lafayette, Pioneer, Ryan and Sanchez. The fellows assist BVSD teachers in delivering standards-based, hands-on engineering lessons weekly throughout the year to nearly 400 students in the upper elementary grades.

∑ New Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) clubs at Lafayette elementary schools, giving interested students a worthwhile after-school activity where their interest in science, engineering and technology can be cultivated.

∑ Summer engineering enrichment camps for elementary, middle and high school students to support and engage students throughout the year.

∑ Professional development workshops for K-12 teachers to assist teachers in introducing pre-engineering activities into their classrooms.

The TEAMS initiative is intended to support and encourage Lafayette students to select more rigorous science and math classes in middle and high school, resulting in increased science, technology, engineering and math achievement and ultimately encouraging Centaurus graduates to pursue engineering, technology or science futures at the college level and beyond.

Parents and teachers wanting more information on the program should call Cathie Williamson at (720) 771-0373.