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Coastal Carolina University receives $2.3 million NSF grant for science education and coastal research

May 19, 2008

Coastal Carolina University has received its largest grant, $2.3 million, from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to establish a program that partners university graduate students and Horry County K-12 teachers in coastal science research.

Funding for the five-year project, titled "GK-12 Fellows Linking Marine and Wetland Research with Science Education in Coastal South Carolina Schools," will begin in June 2008. (The "G" in GK-12 refers to graduate students.)

The project will fund six graduate students and Horry County science teachers each year, according to Craig Gilman, associate professor of marine science at Coastal Carolina University and principal investigator of the grant. For each project, a graduate student chosen from the university's coastal marine and wetland studies program will spend 10 to 15 hours a week in an Horry County science classroom. Participating students, known as GK-12 Fellows, will develop and teach lesson plans based on their specific research projects. They will also serve as a scientific resource for the classroom teacher and as tutors and mentors to the students.

"This grant will significantly expand our capacity to develop meaningful partnerships with area K-12 schools," said Coastal Carolina University Provost Robert Sheehan. "We hope there will be many more funded collaborations between Coastal Carolina University and Horry County Schools."

All the projects will focus on some aspect of coastal science, including research on sharks, blue crabs, wetland biodiversity, bacteria in area beach sand, and the ecology of the area's former rice fields.

Gilman says that the program will be developed in accordance with the objectives of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Education Coalition.

During the summers, GK-12 Fellows will be trained in science education, specifically the development of inquiry-based curriculum that meets the state science standards. Also, each of the six research programs will include a Coastal Carolina University undergraduate science major who will assist the GK-12 Fellows with their summer research projects. Both the undergraduates and Horry County teachers will be trained in how to conduct research in the coastal environment.

Coastal Carolina University faculty members assisting Gilman as co-principal investigators in the program are Rob Young, professor and chair of the Department of Marine Science; Sharon Gilman, associate professor and chair of the Department of Biology; Kevin Godwin, assistant professor of biology; Austin Hitt, assistant professor of education; and Karen Fuss, environmental educator for Coastal Carolina University's Burroughs & Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies.