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Wayne State receives nearly $1 million grant to bolster Detroit teacher competency in S.T.E.M. areas and environmental health

February 3, 2010

A stimulus grant awarded to a Wayne State researcher aims to enhance teacher and student viability in the job market through increased proficiency in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.M.) topics. The nearly $1 million grant was awarded to Mary Dereski, Ph.D., associate professor in the Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and resident of Troy, Mich., through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that was signed into law by President Barack Obama.

The grant is one of 22 Recovery Act Funds totaling approximately $18.3 million awarded to support S.T.E.M. education. The grants are part of the National Institutes of Health’s national effort to attract young people to biomedical and behavioral science careers and to improve science literacy in adults and children. WSU is one of only two Michigan universities to receive this type of funding.

The grant will be used for a professional development summer institute for current Detroit Public Schools in-service high school teachers and supplements to curriculum for students in WSU’s College of Education. Material will consist of historical, contemporary and emerging issues in environmental health, including genetic code, genetic engineering, DNA mutations and current trends and applications of biotechnology.

The purpose of the course is to stimulate job creation and sustainability by raising teacher quality and student competency in S.T.E.M. areas in the adversely economically impacted Detroit Public Schools. It is also anticipated that the skills obtained by the pre-service teachers will assist them in securing a position in a prospective school district after graduation.

“By improving the understanding of science concepts and skills in current and future teachers, we will enhance the competitive edge and marketability of these teachers and their students,” Dereski said. “In Detroit’s dire economy and failing school system, this training could not be more valuable.”

The program’s environmental health focus is particularly relevant to Detroit, where there is much concern surrounding the contamination of hazardous substances such as lead. The curriculum will include many of the known health implications of living among environmental contaminants.

“We’re really hoping to see a lot of environmental health research translated into positive public health outcomes,” Dereski said. “In that way, this program also provides the public service of empowering residents of Detroit with knowledge that could lead to bringing positive change to their city.”

Once the grant is complete, support for teachers will continue through a supplemental Web site that will provide important development resources as well as a forum for teacher dialogue. “It is extremely important that teachers have access to resources and to each other as they work on problem solving and incorporating these important facets into curriculum,” Dereski said. “Our hope is that the site will facilitate continued improvement to Detroit Public Schools and job creation and retention in the Detroit area long after the grant’s two years are complete.”
 

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Wayne State University is one of the nation’s pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information on research at Wayne State University, visit http://www.research.wayne.edu.