Led by Black Hills State University (BHSU), the project, "South Dakota Research Ecosystem Network: STEM Education, Community Engagement and Broadening Network Participation," seeks to engage STEM researchers and K-12 teachers and students in South Dakota to create a pipeline for the next generation of the state’s STEM workforce.

"This grant will specifically address this need in South Dakota by implementing education, outreach and educational research in K-12 STEM education and by broadening participation so that STEM is accessible to all learners, including underrepresented populations," said Dan Mourlam, Ed.D., chair of the Division of Teacher Residency & Education.

Participating USD faculty include Mourlam, the principal investigator of the USD collaborative grant, and senior personnel John Williams, Ed.D. ’22, assistant professor of education; Kevin Reins, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematics education; and Meghann Jarchow, Ph.D., Department of Sustainability & Environment chair.

The grant aims to achieve the following key goals.

  • Engage scientists in South Dakota in professional development focused on how people learn, effective teaching, K-12 content standards related to their areas of expertise and how to support K-12 teachers.
  • Develop K-12 teacher leaders through professional development and mentoring so that they are prepared to lead building- and district-level STEM education initiatives.
  • Facilitate K-12 teacher professional development in computer science and computational thinking, environmental science and sustainability, the integration of STEM, and culturally relevant and sustaining instruction.
  • Broaden participation and strengthen student identity in STEM through bridge programs at tribal colleges and universities, creating opportunities for students and facilitating community outreach activities through the state.
  • Conduct educational research to further recognize the impact of the preceding four goals to better understand how teachers’ knowledge, understanding and confidence develops to inform teacher education programs in South Dakota and beyond.

"USD’s role in leading the education research activities of this project uniquely positions us to conduct investigations into teacher knowledge and confidence, ultimately informing the design of STEM preservice teacher education and in-service teacher professional development both in South Dakota and throughout the nation," said Mourlam.

South Dakota was one of three states to secure the grant. Collaborating institutions include USD, BHSU, Oglala Lakota College, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Dakota State University, South Dakota State University, Augustana University, Northern State University, Sinte Gleska University, Sisseton Wahpeton College, the Sanford Underground Research Facility and the South Dakota Discovery Center. 

"It is significant that South Dakota was one of three states to be awarded this grant from the NSF, as they are very competitive," said Mourlam. "It demonstrates that South Dakota is a leader in STEM education, research and innovation at a national level."

The funds are awarded through the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Collaborations for Optimizing Research Ecosystems Research Infrastructure Improvement Program (E-CORE RII) to enhance the state’s research and development (R&D) competitiveness and promote scientific progress nationwide.

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