STANDISH — Saint Joseph’s College of Maine will receive a $182,845 grant from the National Science Foundation for its evaluation and development of a “Chemistry for the Community” initiative.
Through the initiative, the college will create a service/learning chemistry curriculum that will partner its chemistry courses with different community partners and provide increasingly complex roles for student-scientists as they progress through their classes. In one of the classes, organic chemistry, Saint Joseph’s students will work with high school students in the Windham/Raymond school district. Building upon a pilot program, the partnership will enhance the college’s chemistry curriculum and simultaneously provide benefits to local students interested in science-technology-engineering-math (STEM) based fields.
“Saint Joseph’s College students will be doing science out in the community as part of their courses,” said Dr. Emily Lesher, an assistant professor of chemistry at the college. “Our hypothesis is that service/learning provides an authentic context to motivate chemistry learning and helps develop students’ identities as scientists, which has been shown to improve student learning, retention and success. There is a big difference between reading about a subject and being responsible for constructing an idea and engaging with the community as an expert on the idea.”
Specifically, “Chemistry for the Community” will:
— Develop and implement a service/learning chemistry curriculum;
— Evaluate the specific benefits of this curriculum as students build on their roles as community-engaged scientists;
— And create and share a new service/learning chemistry instructional model for other institutions who wish to follow the same path.
“Saint Joseph’s College students will learn how to work on a team, run analytical equipment, generate data from samples, and apply those lessons to educating others,” said Dr. Yi Jin Gorske, an assistant professor for chemistry at the college. “For example, in environmental chemistry, students will conduct water testing and design how best to deliver results to members of the public.”
“Our students will follow each step of their learning, from theory to practice, allowing them to evolve as community-engaged scientists. This is truly transformative learning,” said Kimberly Post, the college’s community-based learning director.
The NSF supports research, innovation, and discovery to provide a foundation for economic growth in America. Founded in 1950, the NSF is an independent federal agency that works to advance the frontiers of science and engineering so that our nation can develop the knowledge and technologies needed to address current and future challenges.
For more information about the “Chemistry for the Community” initiative, contact Patricia Erikson, Ph.D., the college’s director of communications and government relations, at (207) 893-7721, or visit www.sjcme.edu.