CSU Poised to Make Mark Preparing Math and Science Teachers

COLUMBUS, Ga. -- Buoyed by a recent grant of more than $400,000, Columbus State University is developing plans in a variety of areas to create a niche for itself in the preparation of science and math teachers.

Citing a desperate need in Georgia, the University System Board of Regents is making a statewide push to increase the numbers of both students pursuing an education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and teachers prepared to teach courses in these fields in the public schools.

Columbus State has already been a leader in this area with educational outreach centers such as Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center, the Coca-Cola Space Science Center and the Columbus Regional Math Collaborative.

With a $420,000 grant from the Board of Regents, CSU is making even greater strides to combine the expertise of its colleges of education and science to make a real mark in preparing teachers of science and mathematics, said Cindy Henning, acting associate dean of CSU’s College of Science.

“We’re one of very few institutions in the University System of Georgia that already lead to teacher certification in those fields,” Henning said. “I’d like CSU to become an institution of choice if you have an interest in teaching science.”

To support that goal, several new initiatives are under way, including:

• A Math and Science Learning Center. Planned for the third floor of University Hall (formerly Fine Arts Hall), the center will provide tutoring, hands-on demonstrations, and learning resources for CSU students and host innovative workshops for teachers-in-training.

• A Future Teacher Academy Camp. CSU faculty will open their labs to high school students to engage them in creative science and math activities at a free two-week camp. Students can later share their enthusiasm for science by volunteering to help at K-8 camps at Oxbow Meadows, the Space Science Center Mathematics Collaborative, or CSU’s TSYS Department of Computer Science.

• A new academic minor in physics. All 19 teacher-preparation institutions in the University System of Georgia produced only three high school physics teachers in 2006. CSU hopes to help change that figure.

• Designing new courses in the Earth and space sciences such as “Natural Disasters: Our Hazardous Environments” that look at contemporary issues with a scientific lens.

Henning and her colleagues say there’s no time to waste in implementing these initiatives.

“The University System is graduating so few students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics that Georgia is in danger of not having what it takes to compete in today’s world economy,” said Carl Patton, president of Georgia State University.

Patton, along with Jan Kettlewell, the Regents’ associate vice chancellor for P-16 initiatives, presented the regents with a report on the system’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics President’s Initiative. Henning and Kimberly Shaw, CSU associate professor of physics, said the efforts need to focus on children.

“Little kids are natural-born scientists,” Shaw said. “Somewhere between elementary school and high school, they lose that interest.”