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K 12 Redux: Sending College Students Back (In)To Schools

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Physics in the K-12 Classroom

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.774.1 - 7.774.6



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Paper Authors

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Elizabeth Parry

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Laura Bottomley

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Main Menu Session 2480

K-12 Redux: Sending College Students Back (In) to Schools

Elizabeth Parry, Dr. Laura J. Bottomley Science Surround, NC State University/NC State University


The purpose of this paper is to communicate effective ways graduate and undergraduate college students, particularly those in science and engineering, can be utilized as resources in K-12 schools. Recruitment at middle and high schools is a tried and true way for university students to enhance an engineering college’s appeal. But there are a number of other ways the engineering student can be a significant resource to both K-12 students and teachers, all the while improving their own marketability to prospective employers.

A great need for math, science and technology expertise exists in public schools today. Especially in the general math and science areas of the K-8 arena, instructional effectiveness is widely variable. In the early grades, teachers are fairly comfortable in the life science areas they teach. However, when students move on to the areas of physics (motion, energy, etc), the teacher’s comfort level drops considerably. Engineers are taught from day one that integration of math and science into problem solving is necessary. Therefore, engineers bring to t he classroom this natural ability to integrate subject areas together. The engineering student’s strengths partner quite effectively with the teacher’s more familiar areas of expertise such as language arts and social studies, to give the student’s an integrated, “big picture” view of curriculum areas.

This paper discusses the experiences gained through operation of an NSF GK-12 grant, as well as other community service programs administered by the North Carolina State University College of Engineering Outreach department. Specific ideas and their implementation will be discussed, and the benefits to the university, the public schools and the engineering student will be clearly identified.


In today’s technologically competitive world, it is more important than ever to educate our students well in the areas of critical problem solving and subject integration. 1 Paradoxically, K- 12 students are often taught various core subjects in isolation, i.e. they have a language arts class, then mathematics, then social studies and finally science. In the state of North Carolina, the situation is even more critical due to high stakes testing in grades K-8 in language arts and mathematics only. That leaves science and social studies to be taught when t here is time, a luxury not often present in today’s public schools. Aside from the time issue, K-8 teachers in particular graduate with little experience in “hands-on, minds on” science instruction, instead learning science as taught from textbooks. In lower elementary grades, the curriculum consists primarily of life science subjects such as plants/seeds, life cycles, habitats, etc. The more abstract subjects of physics beginning in grade three are harder to teach, especially with the limited science training the teacher usually possesses. The combination of testing pressure and a

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright (c) 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Parry, E., & Bottomley, L. (2002, June), K 12 Redux: Sending College Students Back (In)To Schools Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10378

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