Background

The goal to engage K-12 students in STEM education is a national priority[1,2].  In comparison to their peers in other countries, U.S. students at the end of their high school careers are not performing well in math and science[3], and fewer are pursuing degrees in technical fields[4].

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has responded to the call to advance STEM eduction by emphasizing science education in its Science and Technology Centers.  The Center for Multiscale Modeling of Atmospheric Processes (CMMAP), a NSF sponsored STC based at Colorado State University (CSU) supports NSF’s vision “to advance discovery, innovation and education beyond the frontiers of current knowledge, and empower future generations in science and engineering”.  Through its network of climate scientists and educators, all of whom share a passion for teaching science, CMMAP supports science education programs that reach thousands of K-12 students annually throughout Colorado.

The NSF provides generous support for research, education, and knowledge transfer programs at its STCs.  However, in 2016 CMMAP’s funding through the NSF STC program expires.  It is the intent of NSF and of CMMAP that many of the Center’s educational programs are sustained beyond the funding cycle of the STC.

Enter Reach.  Reach is a CMMAP spin-off nonprofit organization created to sustain the Center’s legacy of successful science education programs.  The mission of Reach is to enhance public understanding of science as it relates to our changing world.

Reach will partner with the Little Shop of Physics (LSOP), an enormously successful K-12 science education program based in CSU’s Physics Department.  LSOP brings the wonders of science to thousands of K-12 students and hundreds of teachers each year.  They develop curricular materials, host workshops and events, and produce the popular Everyday Science TV show.

Reach benefits from the network of climate scientists and educators developed under CMMAP.  Two senior CMMAP scientists, A. Scott Denning and David Randall, both professors of Atmospheric Science at CSU, will work closely with Reach to promote educational programs, and to identify new funding opportunities.  Dr. Denning is a renowned climate scientist who specializes in modeling the Earth’s carbon cycle.  Dr. Randall is a world leader in the field of climate model development, and was a Coordinating Lead author for the United Nations Environmental Programme’s Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) that was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for its work.

Dr. Randall, the Director of CMMAP, Dr. Denning, the CMMAP Education and Diversity Director, and Brian Jones, the Director of LSOP, are the initial members of  Reach’s Board of Trustees.

CMMAP brings together climate scientists and educators in humanities who have expertise in fields such as climate policy, education, sociology and English.  Notable among these are CSU English professors Sue Ellen Campbell and John Calderazzo, the founders and directors of Changing Climates at CSU.  The Changing Climates program focuses on sharing multi-disciplinary research and information related to climate change.  Reach hopes to collaborate with Changing Climates to sustain some of their current activities and develop new programs aimed at enhancing awareness of climate science and the social issues related to climate change in the university and local communities.

Through its ties to CMMAP, Reach has connections to a multi-disciplinary team of climate scientists and educators.  These connections help ensure that the materials and curriculum in Reach’s education programs is accurate, relevant, and communicated effectively.


[1] NSB, 2009, Letter to President-Elect Barack Obama, Actions to Improve Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education for all American Students, www.nsf.gov/nsb/publications/2009/01_10_stem_rec_obama.pdf
[2] NSB, 2010, Preparing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators: Identifying and Developing Our Nation’s Human Capital, www.nsf.gov/nsb/stem/innovators.jsp
[3] PISA 2009, What Students Know and Can Do: Student Performance in Reading, Mathematics and Science, www.oecd.org/edu/pisa/2009
[4] STEM Education Coalition, 2010, Colorado’s K-12 STEM Ed Report Card, www.usinnovation.org/state/pdf_stem/STEMEdColorado2010.pdf