May 3-9, 2002
Back Issues
Casteen discusses employee issues, academic mission
Gift to provide $5M for Arts Grounds
U.Va. science, math teacher ed programs receive SCHEV awards
Elwood, key figure in U.Va.’s desegregation, dies
Center promotes value of politics and importance of civic-mindedness

Pedalin’ professor weaned himself from his wheels

Letters -- letter from Eugenio Schettini
Hot Links -- Office of the Architect
Graduate assistants receive teaching awards
Summer camps to keep kids busy
Politics 101: Gov. Warner addresses students

U.Va. science, math teacher ed programs receive SCHEV awards

By Fariss Samarrai

As a graduate student in astronomy, Ed Murphy loved volunteering during open house nights at McCormick Observatory. He saw firsthand how groups of children and adults loved learning about astronomy and observing the stars through the 117-year-old McCormick telescope.

“I realized that public outreach and education can be linked, and I enjoyed bringing them together,” he said.

Today, Murphy is an assistant professor of astronomy at U.Va. and manager of the department’s education and public outreach program. Recently he was awarded nearly $56,000 from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia for his project “Space Science for Teachers,” a new two-week summer workshop for science teachers who want to become better teachers of astronomy.

Three other U.Va. outreach education projects have been awarded SCHEV grants as well. Steve Thornton, professor of physics, was awarded more than $80,000 for his ongoing summer education project “Producing Certified High School Physics Teachers;” and math professor Loren Pitt was awarded more than $48,000 for the “Mathematics Teachers’ Leadership Project.”

All three projects will bring math and science teachers to U.Va. this summer to learn more about teaching those subjects and preparing their students to meet the Standards of Learning required by the state. Several members of the Curry School of Education also will serve as instructors for the three programs. A fourth education project, funded at more than $58,000, will be run at the College at Wise by faculty there.

The grants are administered and issued through SCHEV and are funded through the federal government’s Eisenhower Professional Development Program. The grants support projects that improve the content knowledge and teaching skills of elementary and secondary public school teachers in the core academic subject areas of mathematics and science. Twenty-seven grants were issued this year totaling nearly $1.3 million.

“We’re going for the multiplier effect,” Murphy said of the summer projects. “We teach one teacher, and that teacher will teach about 30 students each year for the rest of his or her career. We can reach thousands of students this way.”

Twenty-five teachers will study space science and teaching the subject for two weeks this summer in Murphy’s program, co-instructed with Randy Bell and Adrienne Gauthier of the Curry School and Geary Albright, a teacher at Western Albemarle High School.

“There is a severe shortage of math and science teachers,” said Thornton. “Our project is designed to help more teachers to become certified physics teachers.”
Middle school and high school teachers from around the Commonwealth will come to U.Va. for four weeks this summer to learn about physics and physics teaching from Thornton and his colleague Richard Lindgren.

“During the 1990s I gradually started spending most of my time in trying to improve science education in Virginia and across the nation,” Thornton said. “Teachers have a very difficult job, they are not paid well enough, and I want to be a part of helping to make their jobs better.”

Mathematician Loren Pitt is bringing 32 teachers to his department for a week this summer to gain greater competence in teaching geometry. His U.Va. co-instructor will be Maria Timmerman, an assistant professor of mathematics education, as well as teachers from local schools.

“For about six years I’ve been working with teachers at local schools to help them with the problems of teaching geometry,” Pitt said. “This is a pressing problem, and this new program will help address it. Teachers always show great appreciation for the help we give them at the University, and they make me feel great about my work.”

With the help of U.Va faculty this summer, teachers also will be better at their work.


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