San Diego County High School Science and Math Teachers Develop the Curricula of the Future at SDSC

For Immediate Release
July 18, 1995

For more information, contact:
Kris Stewart
Don Anderson
Robert Dean

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When nearly 8,000 San Diego County high school students return to class this fall, they will encounter science and math teachers empowered by a new educational tool--computational science. These teachers will be familiar with state-of-the-art educational software packages and knowledgeable about scientific visualization, Internet tools, and World Wide Web technology. High school science and math curricula are verging on a revolutionary leap, and San Diego teachers are taking the first step.

Forty-four high school science and math teachers from San Diego County are spending July 10 - 28 at SDSC (San Diego Supercomputer Center) participating in the third summer workshop of the Supercomputer Teacher Enhancement Program (STEP). STEP, a joint educational project of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and SDSC, is funded by the National Science Foundation (E&HR UCSD 92-5943) to provide high school educators from San Diego schools with significantly underrepresented student populations the opportunity to learn about ways to incorporate computational examples into the existing high school science and math curricula--curricula that have evolved from the educational framework put forth by the State of California.

The 1995 summer workshop is designed to reinforce the teachers' knowledge of computational tools and to prepare them to present this information to colleagues at the upcoming SUPERCOMPUTING '95 conference in San Diego in December.

Within STEP, there is a special emphasis placed on the scaling of scientific problems from microcomputers to supercomputers and all platforms in between. As part of the program, STEP teachers provide staff development and have reached more than 3100 peers with information on telecommunications, computational science, and networking during the first two years of the program.

STEP consists of teams of science and math teachers from San Diego County high schools and involves intensive summer workshops and monthly meetings during the academic year. There are currently 39 participating teachers and 5 lead teachers representing 19 different schools. These teachers reach approximately 8,000 students of whom a significant portion are from underrepresented groups.

Kris Stewart, STEP program coordinator, SDSC computational science curriculum coordinator, and San Diego State University associate professor of mathematical sciences, views STEP as a unique educational project because of the program's focus on continuing education. Stewart also attributes the program's strengths and viability to the technical support and access to computational resources provided by SDSC.

According to Michael Sixtus, a chemistry teacher at Mar Vista High School in Imperial Beach and co-recipient with fellow teacher Jose Andres Parra of a GTE GIFT Fellowship, "STEP provides not only a basis from which teachers can work together, but uses connectivity to promote a high-level of communication among teachers. It is this communication that enables us to find a new direction and explore the future of high school science and math curricula."

Sixtus is especially pleased with an improvement in the quality of his students' work and attributes this to their access to the Web, made possible through grants that placed the entire campus online and has made Mar Vista High School the unofficial district technology demo site. The GTE GIFT fellowship of $12,000 has enabled Sixtus and Parra to have their students conduct a calculator-based laboratory study of energy flow through three marine ecosystems. "With access to this technology, students can conduct more research-based projects and--as they watch ecological data flow from their Mac to their Texas-Instruments calculator datalogger and then to a Cray supercomputer--gain a better understanding and appreciation of the scientific method."

The San Diego Supercomputer Center, a national laboratory for computational science and engineering, is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, administered by General Atomics, and affiliated with the University of California at San Diego. The University of California, San Diego, one of the nation's leading research universities, holds the NSF grant for the STEP program with Don Anderson as principal investigator for this project. For additional information, refer to SDSC's World Wide Web server at or contact Ann Redelfs, 619-534-5032, 619-534-5113 fax,

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