Smithwick a PI on NSF grant

April 15, 2010

University Park, Pa. -- The National Science Foundation has awarded a $2.85 million grant to a team of Penn State faculty for a carbon research/science education collaboration with two Pennsylvania school districts.

The five-year Carbon Educators and Researchers Together for Humanity (CarbonEARTH) project teams Penn State Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) graduate students with elementary and middle school science teachers from the rural Phillipsburg and the urban Harrisburg school districts. CarbonEARTH will use the interdisciplinary theme of carbon, broadly construed, as a unifying platform for investigation, discovery, training and education.

According to principal investigator Renee Diehl, professor of physics, graduate fellows and teachers together will develop innovative open-inquiry science curriculum elements related to energy, matter and materials, earth processes and ecosystems. This work will foster the collaboration and communication skills of STEM graduate fellows while facilitating their interactions with other carbon-related researchers in different fields of study. The graduate fellows will work with teachers to strengthen grade four to eight students' understanding of science and to broaden teachers' application of science content.

Diehl will lead CarbonEARTH along with Elizabeth Boyer, associate professor water resources; Angela Lueking, associate professor of energy and mineral engineering; Erica Smithwick, assistant professor of geography; and Annmarie Ward, associate director, Center for Science, Math and Schools. They received the award from the NSF's Graduate STEM Fellows in Education (GK-12) Program.

Science educators from Penn State's Center for Science and the Schools, faculty mentors, partner teachers, school students, and their fellow colleagues will guide CarbonEARTH graduate fellows to integrate their Penn State research into the classroom. Throughout the program, priority will be given to supporting STEM education and career retention of underrepresented groups, including women, minorities, and low socioeconomic populations.

Additional Penn State STEM faculty advisors involved with the project include Rachel Brennan, assistant professor of civil engineering; Jun Zhu, assistant professor of physics; Kristen Fichthorn, professor of chemical engineering and physics; Jorge Sofo, associate professor of physics; Margot Kaye, assistant professor of forest ecology; Jenn Macalady, assistant professor of geosciences; Craig Cameron, Berg professor of biochemistry and molecular biology; Nicole Brown, associate professor of wood chemistry; Kate Freeman, professor of geosciences; Daniel Haworth, professor of mechanical engineering and Heather Karsten, assistant professor of crop production and ecology.

For more information, contact Renee Diehl at

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