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Grant Description

The C.E.N.T.E.R.S. (Cultivating Engaging and Nurturing Teachers for Educationally Resilient Students) grant aims to develop a model, both organizational and theoretical, for a new kind of solution to improving educational outcomes in STEM, especially in under-resourced schools. The first step in the process will be to coordinate the existing summer STEM programs at VSU so that there is a graduated set of experiences that will lead students from elementary school into a college STEM major and plant the seeds for these students to consider science or math teaching. These summer programs can also be a training ground for pre-service and existing math and science teachers to develop their pedagogical skills, and to be exposed to teaching content and demonstrations that can be used in their classrooms. These programs will also provide settings for training math and science college student mentors, who will then work with secondary students in afterschool programs during the academic year.

Scholars of culturally relevant pedagogy have demonstrated through their research and community endeavors the importance of appealing to the worldviews, values, cultural orientations and experiences in order to impact greater educational outcomes (e.g. Lee, 1993, 1995; Gay 2000, Ladson-Billings, 1994, 1998). While culturally relevant and culturally responsive pedagogy are often used interchangeably, we believe that C.E.N.T.E.R.S. (Cultivating Engaging and Nurturing Teachers for Educationally Resilient Students) is not only culturally relevant, in terms of curriculum and approach, but it is also responsive to the needs and conditions of the community and the students.

Urban education scholar, Christopher Emdin (2011) has critically analyzed the challenges of teaching and learning in urban educational settings. Usually, the term “urban” refers to cities. Emdin reminds us that "Urban" in the context of education is a way to describe schools that have particular characteristics: the population is low-income and socioeconomically disadvantaged as a result of being low-income; communities that have high incarceration rates and low graduation rates; and students who are traditionally underperforming based on particular forms of assessments. One of the challenges in urban education revolves around the combined understanding of students’ outside-of-school and inside-of school experiences. According to Milner (2012b), students who live and learn in urban contexts are often faced with the following realities:

  • physical, psychological, and/or emotional abuse of students;

  • harmful addictions such as drug abuse, gambling, and/or alcoholism in families;

  • health and nutrition problems. Health problems include high rates of “asthma, ear infections, stomach problems, and speech problems” (Duffield, 2001, p. 326).

  • financial resources and the lack thereof; students and families living in poverty, for instance, may experience a range of challenges from homelessness to inadequate food supply. Students’ eating patterns may be sporadic, where they do not eat well-balanced meals or miss meals altogether (p. 1020)

A number of leading educators and researchers remind us that teacher education, whether traditional or nontraditional, struggles to prepare teachers with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, dispositions, practices, and worldviews (Gay, 2010; Hollie, 2012; Milner, 2012a) to develop curriculum rigor and other necessities for urban teaching.