Teaching Science by Using Science: Buffalo State Wins NASA Grant

Improving Americans’ scientific literacy by enhancing middle and high school science education is the purpose of a grant awarded by the NASA Langley Research Center. Catherine Lange, ’77, ’89, assistant professor of earth sciences and science education, heads a team of Buffalo State faculty and staff members who bring diverse, relevant skills to the project.

“In preparing this grant,” said Lange, “we had a powerful meeting of the minds.” The team includes Bettina Martinez-Hackert, director of field studies; Jude Sabato, assistant professor; Kevin Williams, assistant professor; and Joseph Zawicki, associate professor, all from the Earth Sciences and Science Education Department; also Joaquin Carbonara, associate professor, Mathematics; David Henry, associate professor, Elementary Education and Reading; Don Erwin, senior associate vice president for information services and systems; Dan MacIsaac, associate professor, Physics; and Charlotte Roehm, assistant professor, and Tao Tang, associate professor, Geography and Planning.

Although NASA is best known for launching vehicles into space, its many other facilities include several research centers. Another team member, principal investigator Lin Chambers, is a scientist at NASA Langley Research Center and director of the My NASA Data Project. Lange explained that NASA provides many services for educators, including resources such as lesson plans and science camps.

The grant developed by Lange and her team, Students and Teachers Using Data from Investigations in Earth Systems (STUDIES), will use three online resources to develop an integrated, user-friendly, Web-based resource to support three areas that are especially challenging for teachers of science in grades five and up. Those areas are earth motion (the earth’s rotation and revolution), mapping, and climate and weather.

Bernadette Tomaselli, ’72, ’84, a lecturer in the Earth Sciences Department and a longtime earth science teacher, is also on the team, as is Kenneth Huff, ’92, ’97, a middle school science teacher in the Williamsville School District. Huff received a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching from President George W. Bush in 2006; Tomaselli has been very active at the state level in developing Regents exams and science syllabi. Lange and Huff have worked together using My NASA Data.

Also included in the three-year, $650,000 project are one professor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and another from Kentucky State University. Buffalo State’s portion of the grant is $270,355.

During the first year of the project, learning progressions and programs will be developed and tested with small groups of students and teachers. In summer 2011, 10 to 20 teachers will be chosen to attend on-campus training on the use of the learning progressions and programs, and to test them in their classrooms. The analysis phase will use multiple resources, including the Regents testing system, to determine if student learning outcomes are improved.

“It’s very exciting,” said Lange. “This project includes all relevant areas of expertise, thanks to the team members’ willingness to become involved.”


Clarification: March 16, 2010
The original version of this article, published March 11, did not identify Lin
Chambers as the principal investigator and did not specify Buffalo State’s portion of the $650,000 grant.