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University Partners with BEACON Center for STE(A)M Project

North Carolina A&T State University has partnered with the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, Guilford County Schools and Agnosia Media, LLC for the education project, “Writing Though STE(A)M: Engaging Evolution in Creative Spaces."

The public/private partnership, funded by BEACON, a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center, will encourage high school students to engage scientific ideas through art including science fiction and film.

Through this project, 25 students from the STEM Early College at N.C. A&T will take two, semester-long courses in writing at A&T that will be customized to examine evolutionary biology by integrating art and fiction. Not only will students have an opportunity to explore how art can interpret, complicate, and reimagine science, but also how they can create art that engages the science.

The premise is that by integrating English skills like close reading, critical thinking and effective writing into the STEM program, students will improve their conceptualization and understanding of evolutionary biology. Dr. Chad Rohrbacher, an associate professor of English at A&T, will help the students with essay construction.

Six scientists at institutions across the nation including Michigan State University, Arizona State University and Spelman College, will review essays for scientific accuracy, rigor and offer content suggestions. The partnership exposes the students to working scientists as career role models, as well as provide more scientific rigor to what is, after all, an English course taught by a non-scientist. Randall Hayes at Agnosia Media will be developing online course modules based on the innovative curriculum. These standalone modules will be free and open to the public.

A second study being conducted by Emily Weigel at Spelman College will examine the mentor feedback to the high school students and attempt to identify the best types and most effective forms of feedback mentors can offer students who are studying evolution.

This innovative writing project seeks to engage students with its fundamental ideas in a unique way. The first project cohort will begin in fall 2016. Among Rohrbacher as a principal investigator (PI) and instructor, the team also includes Emily Weigel, C0-PI, Spelman College; Jamisa Williams and Ashley King from the STEM Early College; Kevin McCormick, Mike Wiser, Carina Baskett and Melissa Kjelvich as mentors; and Hayes.