Program Description

The Summer Research Program for Science Teachers, established in 1990 by Dr. Samuel C. Silverstein, contributes to the improvement of K-12 students’ understanding of science by providing their teachers with experience in the practice of science.

Opportunities are available in astronomy, biological sciences, chemistry, earth sciences, engineering, environmental sciences, genetics, material science and engineering, medicine, microbiology, nanotechnology, physics, physiology, toxicology, and other specialties.

Teachers participate in the Program for two consecutive summers as members of research teams led by Columbia University faculty. Twenty-three K-12 school science teachers participated in the Program from June 27 through August 21, 2013. Through the summer of 2013, 292 K-12 school science educators have participated in the Program. They report that their experiences have engaged them intellectually, provided them with new avenues for personal and professional growth, increased their appreciation of the process of scientific discovery, and enhanced their ability to communicate the excitement of science to their students and fellow teachers. Teachers report that these experiences have revitalized their science teaching by encouraging them to increase laboratory-based constructivist learning in their classrooms. They have given them insight into the personal qualities and technical skills needed to work as a laboratory technician, graduate student, postdoctoral fellow, and senior scientist, thereby aiding them in providing guidance and encouragement to students. Participating teachers are expected to share their research experiences and new skills with their students and fellow teachers. The Program’s analysis of the effects of teacher participation on student outcomes shows that students of participating teachers demonstrate an increased interest and performance in science. Our findings were published in the 16 October 2009 issue of Science Magazine.

From its inception, the Program has been governed by an Advisory Committee composed of faculty from the University and by teachers selected from the Program’s alumni. Each summer, at least one of the program’s alumni meet with teachers individually and in small groups to assist them in developing a plan for transferring concepts and techniques acquired in Columbia laboratories to their classrooms.

Columbia’s Program provides each teacher with a stipend of $6,000 in each of the two summers, $750 following each summer to purchase supplies, materials and equipment for the classroom, and the opportunity to attend a professional conference.