Pilot astronomy program announced for some schools

Posted Nov. 19, 2008, at 6:39 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 5:54 a.m.

Gov. John Baldacci announced on Nov. 15, with state Sen. Elizabeth M. Schneider, the initiation of a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Astrobiology Pilot Program in several Maine schools.

The title of the STEM course, “Astrobiology: An Integrated Science Approach,” is being integrated into the curriculum of a combination of middle schools and high schools in Maine.

“We are transitioning from a manufacturing economy and work force to a global economy where the best jobs require a background in science, math and technology,” Baldacci said. “I have been strongly supportive of STEM education and I am pleased to see a new, innovative course in the STEM category being tested in Maine schools.”

The National Governor’s Association also has been supportive of STEM education, stating in a publication called “Promoting STEM Education” that it prepares students for the 21st century, improves the impact and effectiveness of the state’s K-16 education system and adds value to the state’s economy when the students enter the work force.

The pilot program will teach students astronomy, biology and physical science using a “Five E” instructional model — Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate.

The model is designed to give students both a greater understanding of the content as well as a greater interest in the areas of science and technology. Teachers will receive a series of workshops over the course of the year with resources from NASA Ames and Lockheed/Martin, interactions with NASA Astrobiology Institute scientists, and field trips to astrobiology sites and facilities being integrated into the pilot teachers’ classroom instruction.

The Astrobiology curriculum is being implemented during this school year in Old Town High School, United Technologies Center, Brewer High School, Penobscot Valley High School, Lake Region High School, Biddeford Middle School, Brunswick Middle School, Nokomis High School and Topsham Alternative Education.

In all, 18 classes are offered at nine Maine schools with one additional class offered in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

“By bringing attention to STEM education and effective science education, we are making critical steps in achieving the goals of supporting our students and our state,” the governor said.

The Astrobiology Pilot Program has involved a public-private partnership with time, materials or human resources being provided by the Maine Department of Education, “It’s About Time” publisher TERC, several Maine high schools, Lockheed-Martin, and the Center for Science and Mathematics Education Research at the University of Maine.

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