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Innovative partnership brings STEM curricula to teachers nationwide

Rider and U.S. Satellite Laboratory take steps to address shortage of quality STEM instruction
By
Keith Fernbach
11/25/2019

One of the biggest challenges in education today is the scarcity of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers. Despite numerous efforts to address this shortage, quality instruction in STEM areas remains a huge need. Compounding the problem, fewer teachers are returning to college to earn graduate degrees and stay current on emerging trends.

Rider University is taking steps to remedy both issues.

“We’ve created high-quality online STEM courses for teachers and leaders using cutting-edge technology,” says Sharon Sherman, dean of Rider’s College of Education and Human Services.

The hope is that through these easily-accessible classes, Rider can help to improve the level of STEM education in schools and at the same time make it more convenient for working teachers to continue their professional development and obtain advanced credentials.

To accomplish this goal, Rider has formed an innovative partnership with U.S. Satellite Laboratory (USSL) that is helping to bring STEM curricula to teachers and their students nationwide.

Known as the “Endeavor STEM Certificate Project,” the program was created to provide opportunities for PK-12 teachers to develop STEM expertise. Participants can earn a 15-credit Endeavor STEM Professional Development Certificate by completing five online graduate courses offered through the Rider-USSL partnership. Teachers also have the option of taking individual courses rather than pursuing the certificate.

A unique feature of the courses is that they integrate data available from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and include interaction with NASA researchers through U.S. Satellite’s Space Act Agreement.

According to Director of Curriculum and Instruction for USSL Karen Woodruff, who is also an adjunct professor at Rider, the program was designed to meet the needs of working teachers looking to further their STEM education.

“It recognizes the needs of professional educators, taking into account their busy schedules, the demands that are placed on them, and their need to integrate STEM into their classroom experience,” she says. “Our goal is to provide teachers with a high level of resources, access to colleagues across the nation who are trying to do the same kind of work, and instructors who have valuable experience and who can work with teachers to make STEM meaningful in their individual contexts.”

In addition to the Rider-USSL Endeavor STEM Teaching Certificate, Rider also offers 10 online graduate-level education courses in STEM. Five of the courses are in the math core curriculum and five in the science, design and engineering curriculum. Each course can be completed in seven weeks.

“By making outstanding content and pedagogy, as well as rigorous academic preparation accessible to a greater number of current teachers, and by seeking support and involvement from numerous school districts, this online core curriculum model provides what’s needed to bring about significant improvement in STEM education,” says Sherman.

In an effort to increase focus on addressing the needs of students who are gifted and talented in the STEM disciplines, the program includes two newly-created gifted education courses as well as an increase in the number of online course offerings in STEM for gifted students.

Christine Laquidara-Kolvek '01, who manages the project, says the online courses are relevant to teachers at all stages of their careers due to the constantly evolving nature of education. "Students interested in becoming teachers have to be ready to pursue lifelong learning because things are changing so quickly, especially in the STEM area."

Another unique aspect of Rider’s online program is the versatility it offers, allowing students to customize their studies to align with their career goals. For example, they can earn a STEM certificate by taking a five-course, 15-credit STEM sequence with the various online courses, or they can take the STEM courses as a focus of study within certain Rider graduate degree programs, including the Teacher Leadership program and the Master of Arts in Teaching program.

“This helps us achieve our mission of addressing the state and national shortage of STEM teachers,” says Dean Sherman.

Additional information about the Endeavor STEM Certificate Project can be found at www.rider.edu/admissions/university-partnerships/endeavor, while those interested in learning more about Rider’s online STEM courses for practicing teachers can visit www.rider.edu/stem/practicing-teachers.