The Whittier Union High School District is partnering with Whittier College on a four-year, $800,000 grant to the college from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to promote new, innovative strategies for improving science and math education in grades K-12.
With the support of HHMI, Whittier College will partner with Whittier Union to launch a new SMART (Science and MAth in Research and Teaching) Program. As a part of that program, a set of Whittier Union’s high school science and math teachers will make curricular innovations as they work with the College’s diverse faculty and student teaching and research fellows.
This grant will help current Whittier Union science teachers integrate new approaches to their instruction and will advance the education of Whittier College’s undergraduates and graduate students, who are the next generation of K-12 science and math teachers.
“Providing our students with innovative science and math instruction is of the utmost importance and Whittier Union is excited about the opportunity to work with Whittier College to advance teaching methods in these fields,” said Superintendent Sandra Thorstenson. “Our teachers, and ultimately, our students will benefit greatly from this joint effort.”
During the four-year project, eight science and math teachers from La Serna and Whittier high schools and 20 Whittier College student fellows will participate. Students and teachers alike will make a two-year commitment to the program that will have summer and academic year components.
The plan is to help teachers integrate an inquiry-based, research-oriented approach to teaching science and math in high school, and assist teachers as they align their curricula with the upcoming changes in the California science and math standards.
This program is designed to prepare college students and high school teachers to become leaders in science education. The program will also advance talented college students into math and science teaching careers and improve the pipeline of students from underrepresented backgrounds into careers in science and math.
Whittier’s student fellows will be drawn primarily from students who are majoring in math or science disciplines and want to be K-12 teachers of math and science; the program will also be open to students from other disciplines and from Whittier College’s graduate program in education.
Whittier College was among 47 small colleges and universities in the United States to receive competitive grants from HHMI's Precollege and Undergraduate Science Education Program. A select group of 215 primarily undergraduate institutions were invited to apply based on their record of excellence in graduating students in the sciences. This was Whittier’s first invitation to the prestigious national competition and the College’s first award from HHMI.
According to Whittier College President Sharon Herzberger, the HHMI grant provides a valuable opportunity for the college considering that 25 percent of its graduates become teachers, principals, and/or school superintendents.
“Whittier College has a prestigious history of training teachers and other leaders in education. We are honored to have this grant that will enhance our already great programs that prepare students to be effective and innovative educators. This award from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute is a tremendous endorsement of the work we will continue to do,” said Herzberger.