The need to include spatial cognition in school STEM curriculum is urgent for at least two reasons. First, we know from cognitive psychological research that children and adolescents demonstrate strong proclivities toward activities that require the use of their spatial abilities. Second, 21st-century professions will undoubtedly depend on students’ abilities to physically and mentally manipulate objects or ideas for carrying out various functions in specific fields.
The School of Education at St. John’s University, in collaboration with St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has recently been awarded the National Science Foundation (NSF) Robert Noyce grant. The NSF Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program is a prestigious national award that provides funding to institutions of higher education in the form of scholarships, stipends, and programmatic support for recruiting and preparing STEM majors and professionals to become K–12 teachers. The key goal of Noyce is to increase the number of K–12 teachers with strong STEM content knowledge who will teach in high-need schools and districts.
The term “high-need” refers to school districts that have at least one school in which 50 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced lunch, 34 percent or more teachers are not licensed or certified or are teaching out-of-field, and/or there is a 15 percent or higher attrition rate for teachers within the last three years.
Now more than ever, the US direly needs to improve the safety, stability, and overall well-being of students and their families in high-need districts—with particular focus on preparing girls, students of color, LGBTQ+ youth, and students with special needs. It is our goal, then, to enrich students of high-need families with a powerful education so that they can give back and improve the lives of people in their communities. Of note is the fact that our goal aligns well with the St. John’s University Vincentian mission: “We strive to provide excellent education for all people, especially those lacking economic, physical, or social advantages.”
The St. John’s University NSF Robert Noyce Academy for Preparing Effective K-12 STEM Teachers: Spatial Thinking in STEM (hereafter the Noyce Spatial Thinking Academy) is a five-year project—with the possibility for another five-year extension—designed to motivate talented students in the STEM disciplines and STEM professionals to become successful STEM teachers in high-needs public schools.
The Noyce Spatial Thinking Academy team has partnered with several high-need districts and schools within the New York City metropolitan area. Currently, we work with secondary and elementary schools in the vicinity of the University’s Queens, NY, campus; Districts 28 and 29 in Queens; District 31 in Staten Island; and the Yonkers School District.
Some of the many benefits that our grant initiative offers our partners include
During each year of Noyce, we will host several events with keynote speakers who are experts in spatial thinking in STEM. First, we will organize hands-on workshops that enable STEM educators to learn about and implement spatial thinking skills so that they can enhance student success. In addition, we will host an annual Noyce Spatial Thinking Academy Conference in May of each year to share clinically rich, tried-and-true insights with the St. John’s University community and the communities of each of our school district partners.
With financial support by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program is a prestigious national award that provides funding to higher education institutions in the form of scholarships, stipends, and programmatic support for recruiting and preparing STEM majors and professionals to become K–12 teachers. The key goal of Noyce is to increase the number of K–12 teachers with strong STEM content knowledge who teach in high-need school districts.
The program consists of four tracks:
In addition to these four tracks, NSF provides Capacity Building awards, which may lead to the development of full proposals in tracks one through three. To this end, NSF encourages partnerships between four-year institutions and two-year institutions, providing pathways leading to STEM teacher certification.
Another national organization that provides support to the NSF Noyce programs is the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). AAAS works with the NSF Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program to identify and disseminate information about effective practices and strategies for attracting, selecting, and preparing new K–12 STEM teachers, particularly those placed in high-need districts, and retaining them in the STEM teacher workforce. The work provided by AAAS includes, but is not limited to, the following:
What is High-Need?
The term “high-need local educational agency” (or “high-need LEA”) is a US local educational agency (i.e., school district) that has at least one school that
(1) meets at least one of the following criteria: (a) not less than 20 percent of the children served by the agency are from low-income families; (b) serves at least 10,000 children from low-income families; (c) is eligible for funding under the Small, Rural School Achievement Program; or (d) is eligible for funding under the Rural and Low-Income School Program; and
(2) meets at least one of the following criteria: (a) has a high percentage of teachers not teaching in the academic subject areas or grade levels in which the teachers were trained to teach; or (b) has a high teacher turnover rate or a high percentage of teachers with emergency, provisional, or temporary certification or licensure.
Cost of attendance
The cost of tuition and fees, room and board, books, supplies, transportation, and miscellaneous personal expenses for a student attending an institution of higher education on at least a halftime basis.
Funds awarded (a) in the NSF Teaching Fellowships Track to a STEM professional while that individual is enrolled in a master’s degree program leading to teacher certification or licensure and, thereafter, while that individual is fulfilling the teaching service commitment (at which point the funds are also referred to as a salary supplement); or (b) in the NSF Master Teaching Fellowships Track to a STEM teacher (in which case the funds are also referred to as a salary supplement).
Mathematics or science teacher (i.e., STEM teacher)
An individual who has teaching certification or licensure to be a science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or computer science (including cybersecurity and artificial intelligence) teacher at the elementary or secondary school level. STEM teachers are NOT teachers without elementary or secondary teacher certification or licensure, vocational or career technical education teachers, substitute teachers, paraprofessionals, or teaching assistants.
Funds awarded in the Scholarships and Stipends Track (i.e., track 1) to (a) an undergraduate Noyce-eligible STEM major who has attained at least junior status in a baccalaureate degree program; or (b) a postbaccalaureate student with a Noyce-eligible STEM baccalaureate degree (allowable only when the institution requires a postbaccalaureate year to obtain teacher certification or licensure). Scholarships are not considered taxable income or loans during the period of the scholarship support.
An acronym for science, technology, engineering, art (and architecture), and mathematics
An acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics STEM major A college or university degree program in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or computer science (including cybersecurity and artificial intelligence). Noyce -eligible STEM majors, degrees, or disciplines are identified based on a Classification of Instructional Programs code. STEM majors, degrees, or disciplines that are typically eligible for Noyce cost of attendance support are biological sciences, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and statistics, physical sciences, or fields related to these disciplines, such as biological and physical science, computer science, data science, marine sciences, and mathematics.
A person who holds a baccalaureate, master’s, or doctoral degree in a Noyce-eligible STEM discipline and either (i) has recently graduated; or (ii) is working in or had a career in a STEM field, including retirees from STEM professions.
Funds awarded in the Scholarships and Stipends Track (i.e., track 1) to a STEM professional with a Noyce-eligible STEM degree who enrolls in a teacher certification program. Stipends are not considered taxable income or loans during the period of the stipend support.