Improved STEM training goal of new federal funding for MSU

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State is receiving a nearly $900,000 National Science Foundation grant to help public schools enhance critical middle-school teaching and learning skills.

Awarded to associate professor Dana Franz in the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education, the funding supports a three-year interdisciplinary partnership with university colleagues in the Bagley College of Engineering, Department of Biological Sciences, Office of Research and Economic Development, and Research and Curriculum Unit. The project is titled “Opportunities to Learn: Creative Science Through Inquiry, a Middle Grades Teaming Framework.”

Off-campus partners include East Mississippi Community College-Golden Triangle and the Choctaw County, Lowndes County and Starkville-Oktibbeha County school districts, along with several local industries.

Enhancing the educational preparation of a diverse student population to make high school course selections that lead to positive career decisions after graduation is the project’s ultimate goal.

Franz is the project’s principal investigator. A researcher in the area of common-core standards and mathematics affecting both middle-level students and teachers, she also served as co-principal investigator on an earlier multi-year NSF grant.

Mississippi State researchers will “engage our community college and industry partners with middle-school teachers in the development, testing and refinement of lesson frameworks” so that “STEM collaboratively is infused in meaningful, relevant ways in the curriculum throughout the school year,” Franz said.

STEM is the widely used acronym describing an interdisciplinary and applied curriculum in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

In all, more than 70 teachers in summer professional development workshops and 1,800 students throughout successive school years will be involved, the Texas A&M University doctoral graduate added.

Franz said the NSF-funded effort is designed to “expand the amount of material available for team teaching, increase the use of technology in the classroom, provide on-going support for developing new curricula during the school year for participating teachers and evaluate the progress of the expanded project toward its goals.”

Co-principal investigators on the project are Christina McDaniel and Katie Echols. McDaniel is a Bagley College of Engineering staff member who coordinates the Mississippi Science and Engineering Fair’s east-central regional competition. Echols is director for research analysis and support in the MSU Office of Research and Economic Development.

Lynn Eiland, Research and Curriculum Unit project manager, is serving as administrator for the complex research project.

For additional information, contact Franz at 662-325-7117 or Details about the NSF’s efforts to advance STEM training is found at

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