Scientist-Educator Collaborations in STEM and the Geosciences

Elena Sparrow at a talk

Scientists and educators collaborate in myriad ways to benefit students.

Researchers may approach teachers to engage students in their research. Or teachers may solicit an an expert’s perspective on a subject their students are learning. 

Elena Sparrow, a research professor at IARC, said some of the best collaborations are longer-term and incorporate required science education standards. 

Sparrow, who also serves as director of education and outreach at IARC, discussed such collaborations during the 2019 American Geophysical Union meeting Dec. 9-13 in San Francisco.

Over the course of a semester or year, for example, graduate students may work with K-12 educators in a classroom, Sparrow said. The graduate students learn how to communicate their science to diverse audiences. In return, they learn practical skills, such as how to manage a lively classroom full of students.

Collaborations happen outside the classroom, too. In the PolarTREC (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating) program, educators work alongside researchers on field expeditions in the Arctic and Antarctic. 

Other collaborations result from professional development workshops, Sparrow noted. Examples include programs such as Arctic Harvest: Public Participation in Scientific Research; The Arctic in the Classroom; Long-Term Ecological Research Schoolyard; Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment; and Arctic and Earth STEM Integrating GLOBE and NASA (SIGNs). 

Post-collaboration, Sparrow said, success is often measured through student evaluations. Educators and scientists may also report how the collaboration has affected their own work.

Through collaboration with scientists, teachers find creative ways to reveal more of the world to their students. That helps bridge the gap between this generation’s groundbreaking science and the next generation’s career paths.