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From the Bottom Up: Improving Science and Math Education in the USVI

Overview:

Lead institution: University of the Virgin Islands (UVI)

Other partners: US Virgin Islands Department of Education (VIDE), Virgin Islands Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (VI-EPSCoR), St. Thomas and St. John School Districts.

In this MSP-Start grant, a strong and sustainable partnership will be built between the Virgin Islands Department of Education, the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) and other community stakeholders to strengthen K-12 STEM education. Teachers and school administrators from the St. Thomas/St. John District and the St. Croix District and UVI teacher training faculty and scientists will work together to conduct a systematic assessment of the territory's educational system, in order to identify key interventions to strengthen the quality of K-12 STEM teachers and to ensure that K-12 students can engage in challenging STEM courses and curricula to effectively prepare them for the workforce or for higher education. Learning from the experiences of other programs, pedagogical research, and the project needs analysis, the project team will develop plans for follow-on action to strengthen K-12 STEM education.

The US Virgin Islands is a relatively homogeneous predominately minority population, with strong family and cultural connections to other parts of the eastern Caribbean. Virgin Islands educators have begun developing more culturally/locally relevant materials to strengthen STEM curricula, typically with themes relevant to students' everyday lives and emphasizing hands-on scientific investigation. This project will contribute to the knowledge base on how to adapt and create synergies between the local context, curriculum content, instructional design and pedagogies.

Additionally a partnership model will be developed based on prior research from other MSP projects and adapted to the local context, contributing to the knowledge base on establishing partnerships in different and cross-cultural contexts. Information on strategies for building strong partnerships will be disseminated through the MSPnet electronic learning community.

The strong foundation built by the MSP-Start grant will increase the likelihood of success of future interventions to strengthen K-12 STEM education, so that Virgin Islands students leave school better prepared for employment and higher education. Eighty nine percent of the Virgin Islands population and 98% of children in the public schools are of African descent and Hispanic heritage, and consequently the proposed activities will significantly contribute to increasing and broadening participation in higher education and careers in STEM disciplines.