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Preparing College Students To Teach An Environmental Problem Solving Curriculum To Middle School Students

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Innovative Curricula and Outreach

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.935.1 - 8.935.7

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Paper Authors

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Susan Powers

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

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Preparing College Students to Teach an Environmental Problem Solving Curriculum to Middle School Students Susan E. Powers, Ph.D., P.E. Center for the Environment, Clarkson University, Potsdam NY 13699-5715 PN: 315-268-6542; FN: 315-268-7985;


An NSF-funded project-based program was implemented by Clarkson University in 2000 to increase the interest and knowledge of middle school students in science, math and technology through the solution of an environmental problem that is relevant to their local school community. Clarkson students developed curricula for 7th and 8 th grade science and technology classes and then worked with the middle school students throughout the year to reduce to transform solid waste into valuable products. The solutions to this problem – food waste to compost and non-biodegradable waste as aggregates in concrete - provided a vehicle to teach fundamental science and math content as well as the process of doing science and solving problems.

Placing college science and engineering students in the classroom proved to be a great mechanism for engaging students in science topics and providing mentoring experiences that differ greatly from those that a practicing professional can provide. It is clear, however, that the students must be well prepared for this experience to maximize the benefits of university – school district partnership programs. The objective of this paper is to describe the training program that has been developed to prepare Clarkson students to work effectively in middle school classrooms.

The Clarkson students are trained for their classroom experiences during the summer before they enter the classroom. They receive three credits for the training, curriculum development, and teaching efforts. It is expected that the students have the necessary background in science and technology to teach themselves the content and environmental relevance of the problem they will be teaching. Lectures and workshops focus on how to transform this knowledge into a project- based curriculum that meets the needs of the teachers, while also exciting the students.

Lecture/workshops include: team work; components of an effective class and teacher; project planning and management; problem solving process; inquiry based learning, deductive/inductive learning; creating unit/lesson plan; defining learning objectives; incorporating mentoring into program; NYS standards and science exam; and, assessment techniques. Journals are used to encourage the fellows to reflect on their learning and own educational experiences. An evaluation of the program by both Clarkson students and their partner teachers indicated that this training was appropriate for the students to enter the classroom as professional scientists and engineers. Additional details about this program are available at

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Copyright 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Powers, S. (2003, June), Preparing College Students To Teach An Environmental Problem Solving Curriculum To Middle School Students Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2003 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015