Pace University Expands on work with New York City Department of Education and Billion Oyster Project with $2 Million Grant from National Science Foundation


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NEW YORK, MARCH 22, 2018—New York City public school students from underrepresented communities will benefit from enhanced STEM education programs thanks to the latest grant of $2 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to Pace University. The grant will expand the Billion Oyster Project of the New York Harbor School to include K-12 science programs with the New York City Department of Education.

With support from the NSF over the past four years, totaling $7.4 million, Pace and a consortium of organizations and STEM Industry leaders, have implemented a city-wide initiative to enable schools and teachers to incorporate STEM education, including waterfront field research and environmental restoration, in New York City’s lowest-income and most under-resourced public schools. New York City Public Schools students actively engage in research with scientists and teachers gaining the necessary technical skills and tools to eventually enter STEM fields.

Student participation includes growing new oysters on oyster shells collected from top New York City restaurants. Because new oysters grow on oyster shells, the project has collaborated with area restaurants that contribute shells weekly. Students also wade in New York Harbor waters with educators and scientists to collect data on water quality and conditions, offering hands-on lessons on how to collect and use data for scientific research. Comprehensive teacher training and professional development with scientists enables STEM professionals to partner with schools to develop field-based collaborations and citizen science data collection efforts. An online Digital Platform has been developed for the students, scientists and teachers to enter and use the New York Harbor data to collaborate globally with other scientists and researchers in similar fields.

Senator Charles Schumer said, “This $2 million National Science Foundation investment will help expand Pace University’s innovative ‘Billion Oyster Project’ work, an effort to restore our harbor’s once-thriving oyster ecosystem, which has massive clean water benefits because oysters are extraordinarily efficient natural filters. Congratulations to Pace University on being awarded this grant and thank you to all of the schools and organizations involved in this consortium’s effort to create a cleaner New York harbor.”

“I am pleased that the National Science Foundation is investing in STEM education for some of the most vulnerable children in New York City,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “This project will bring exciting new STEM learning opportunities to low-income students, and it will also help improve the quality of New York’s harbors and waterways.”

The grant builds on the work of the Billion Oyster Project (BOP) and Curriculum and Community Enterprise for Restoration Science (CCERS) which is a New York City based consortium led by Pace University (School of Education and Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems and the STEM Collaboratory NYC®), The Billion Oyster Project, the New York City Department of Education, Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the New York Aquarium, the New York Academy of Sciences, the River Project, Good Shepherd Services, York College/CUNY, and the University of Maryland Environmental Center for Sciences. This collaborative community of students, educators, scientists, volunteers, schools, universities, businesses, and community organizations are working together to conduct scientific research for oyster restoration to restore New York City Harbor.

"By raising student interest in community-based citizen science, we hope to develop a more diversified STEM workforce,” said Principal Investigator and Assistant Professor of STEM Education, Lauren Birney of Pace’s School of Education. “This dynamic collaborative program is a direct response to the persistent call for 21st century workforce development, including technological innovations and critical thinking skills through inquiry based learning, that will help students fill the STEM jobs of the future.” Birney is also Director of The STEM Collaboratory NYC®, an entity which functions to provide resources, opportunities and partnerships for STEM Industry professionals, teachers, scientists and students.

"Pairing restoration and education is at the heart of Billion Oyster Project's work. We see first-hand that teaching through the lens of restoration, inviting students into STEM projects in their own backyard (or harbor), helps to make STEM real for students and demonstrates that access and knowledge about STEM careers has profound power to improve communities," says Billion Oyster Project Executive Director Pete Malinowski. "By investing in STEM opportunities that pair environmental restoration and public education, NSF is helping to create an educational model that can invite students into a meaningful relationship with STEM education throughout their K-12 experience."

About the School of Education: For more than fifty years, Pace University’s School of Education has prepared students to not only meet the requirements for teaching certification, but to also be agents of change committed to student success and lifelong learning. Through small classes and early fieldwork experiences, School of Education graduates are ready to start making a difference in the world before they even graduate. School of Education students receive the tools they need to be successful educators from faculty who are nationally and internationally renowned for active engagement in progressive research activities. Our students begin observations the first semester of sophomore year, which is one year earlier than most schools, and we strive to provide courses in a variety of new specialty areas to improve engagement, especially for students with diverse learning styles and learning differences.

About Pace University: Since 1906, Pace has educated thinking professionals by providing high quality education for the professions on a firm base of liberal learning amid the advantages of the New York metropolitan area. A private university, Pace has campuses in Lower Manhattan and Westchester County, NY, enrolling nearly 13,000 students in bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs in its Lubin School of Business, Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, College of Health Professions, School of Education, Elisabeth Haub School of Law, and Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems. A 2017 study by the Equality of Opportunity Project ranks Pace University first in the nation among four-year private institutions for upward economic mobility based on students who enter college at the bottom fifth of the income distribution and end up in the top fifth.