September 13, 2016

$1.2 million National Science Foundation grant to Wayne State to impact Detroit Public School students’ interest in STEM

DETROIT – Wayne State University recently received notice of a nearly $1.2 million award from the National Science Foundation that aims to impact minority students’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) related careers.

The project, “Promoting Student Interest in Science and Science Careers through a Scalable Place-based Environmental Educational Program at a Public Aquarium,” will train 90 Detroit Public School (DPS) teachers in biological STEM areas related to fisheries, wildlife, conservation and aquatic sciences. More than 2,300 fifth grade students from DPS will benefit over the course of three years by participating in field trips to the Belle Isle Aquarium and follow-up activities.

Interest in STEM-related fields by minority students has been low — particularly among African American and Latino students — despite intense drives to encourage students to study science.

According to Jeffrey Ram, professor of physiology in Wayne State University’s School of Medicine and principal investigator of the program, fifth grade is a critical age in which decisions for lifelong science-related career choices are formed.

“Our goal is to increase interest, knowledge and activity choices of students in ways that promote science education and STEM career choices among minority youth,” said Ram. “By providing them with learning opportunities at the Belle Isle Aquarium, we hope to spark more excitement in STEM areas they may not have considered, with interesting follow-on learning opportunities to aid in maintaining their interest and knowledge.”

Workshops for teachers are intended to inspire them to achieve their fifth grade curricular goals through activities at a community-based institution, the Belle Isle Aquarium.  The program will measure teachers’ confidence and teaching practices as they strive to achieve a lasting impact on their students. The program will also measure the impact of the field trips on students’ attitudes towards STEM and STEM-related careers, along with their change in knowledge of science concepts and attitudes toward STEM and STEM-related careers.

“By involving students in science-related activities on Belle Isle and in their schools, we expect to significantly impact teaching practices and student learning in STEM-related fields.  Overall, the project will create exciting communities of learning centered on the Belle Isle Aquarium that are intended to far outlast the lifetime of the grant,” said Ram.

The award number for this grant is 1614187.

About Wayne State University

Wayne State University is one of the nation’s pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit


Julie O'Connor
Phone: 313-577-8845

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