UPR receives $600K NSF research grant for middle school science teachers
By The Star Staff
The University of Puerto Rico (UPR) received a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that facilitated the creation of a research experience program for middle school science teachers known as BIORETS: BioInteractions, UPR Interim President Mayra Olavarría Cruz said Monday.
To obtain the grant, UPR competed with hundreds of proposals from universities and organizations from all U.S. states and territories. The project, which was conceptualized in collaboration with the island Department of Education, will have a huge impact on low-income students in low-performing schools, Olavarría Cruz said in a written statement, adding that it is focused on biological and biomedical interactions.
The primary goal of the project is to improve middle and high school students’ scientific literacy and positive attitudes toward science, technology, engineering and mathematics by including teachers in a professional development program focused on immersion in biological research and the development of curricular material, based on their research experience. Teachers will participate in a wide range of research activities from molecular biology to macro ecology, it was reported.
“As the main teaching center and promoter of research on the island, it is a great achievement for the University of Puerto Rico to have obtained this grant after having competed for it with more than a hundred universities and educational organizations,” Olavarría Cruz said. “This is evidence of the quality of the education we provide and the prestige of our researchers. It is also a solid reaffirmation of the relevance of the UPR for our country. As I have stated before and it is public knowledge, our university has been the object of a series of cuts in recent years that have upset the operation of the system.”
“That is why I am committed to continuing to identify funding sources for projects like this one, which will have a positive impact on middle and high school science teachers and, consequently, on the quality of education that our children will receive in their respective schools,” the official added. “The future of Puerto Rico lies in education, and the UPR is the pillar on which the future of our country is sustained.”
The UPR official stressed that the grant is an example of the efforts that are being developed from the Vice Presidency of External Resources, directed by Prof. Carmen R. Bachier, along with the campuses and units, to benefit the entire university community.
“In the educational context in which Puerto Rico finds itself, education projects become more relevant,” Bachier said. “It is an excellent opportunity for our science teachers to promote inquiry among students as we begin to develop the investigators of tomorrow.”
Michelle Borrero, a faculty member in the Department of Biology at the UPR Río Piedras Campus who is directing the project, specified the importance of such initiatives.
“I strongly believe that empowering teachers through research is imperative to improving the education of our K-12 students,” she said. “Selected teachers will have the opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research and mentoring projects so that they can translate that experience into learning activities for their students.”
UPR-Río Piedras Chancellor Luis A. Ferrao Delgado noted that “this grant from the NSF once again reflects the value of research carried out at the University of Puerto Rico, and their commitment to the future of Puerto Rican society.”
“It will allow expanding the educational alliances that have been created from this institution for the professional development of teachers in non-traditional subjects, and we are sure that the result of this project will mean that the participating teachers will be able to motivate students to take an interest in continuing studies in related disciplines,” he said.