Teacher-Researcher Partnerships at UNO Highlighted in Upcoming MUJ
Tuesday, March 22, 2016 Posted by: CUMU Headquarters
The most recent issue ofMetropolitan Universities Journal features research byDr. William Tapprichand hiscolleaguesinvolved with theTeacher-Researcher Partnership Program (TRPP)at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), a CUMU member institution. This article examines the creation andenhancementof a "STEM ecosystem" between UNO and the teachers and administrators of the K-12 Omaha Public School (OPS) system. This "ecosystem" provides opportunities for teachers and youth in theOmahacommunity to conduct genuine research experiments with the supplies, services, equipment, and funding available to UNO in collaboration with, and support from, UNO leadersin adiverse variety of scientific disciplines. TheTRPP Project Gallerydemonstrates the breadth of science research conducted by teachers in the program.
One such project was the installation of a sustainable rain garden at Omaha Northwest High School (ONWHS) thatcollectsexcess water run-off from the streets to sustain plants native to the
region. The garden collects and absorbs storm water, preventing it from overflowing storm drains, mixing with the sewage in Omaha's combined sewer system, and flooding yards in the neighborhood. Rachael Burns, a teacher at ONWHS, worked in collaboration with Dr. SteveRodie, professor and Director of the Center for Urban Sustainability, and his students to design and implement the 20 foot garden. Dr.Rodiedescribed this collaboration as a "good way to combine curriculum from class and the research design process" for hiscollegiatestudents.
Ms. Burns echoed that sentiment, explaining that the project gave her students a hands-on opportunity to appreciate the community they grow up in. "It's more than just about sustainability," said Ms. Burns, "they are applying what they learned. They are not just sitting and taking notes, then taking a test. They get to actually do, and by doing, they learn. It's something they can take pride in because it's affecting their community." Ms. Burns' advanced horticulture class recently became the state winner of the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest, which rewards schools solving community problems using STEM skills. They will now compete atthe national level for a chance to pitch their idea in New York City for a prize of $140,000.
According to Dr.Tapprich, many of the TRPP teachers whosubmittedapplicationsand participated in summer 2015 also participated in the OPS's K-12 Comprehensive Teaching and Learning Project, and 5 out of 6 participating teachers outlined their plans to obtain Masters and Doctorate graduate degrees as a part of their participation. All of the participants noted how thesynergyof the K-12 project, TRPP, and their graduate courses contributed to their effectiveness in STEM education.
Dr.Tapprichand the TRPP team are currently organizing research partnerships for this upcoming summer, riding on the success of their program from this past year's cohort. They have 17 teachers and 16 research mentors accepted into TRPP 2016 and are in the process of matching teachers with UNO mentors. Several of the 2015 teachers and mentors are returning in 2016, highlighting the positive and rewarding impact TRPP has on members of both the university and the community in which it is embedded.
For more information about how the TRPP program establishes the resources and infrastructure needed to engage K-12 science teachers and their students in scientific research experiences, be sure to checkout Dr.Tapprichandcolleagues' article "Enhancing the STEM Ecosystem through Teacher-Researcher Partnerships" in the upcoming issue ofMetropolitan Universities Journal.
To see the TRPP in action and for more information about the ONWHS rain garden, clickhereandhere and watch the video below: