Begun in 1993, the Exploring Physics in Cyberspace programs was supported by two National Science Foundation grants. The project spans grades 5-12, and involves collaboration among teachers and administrators of the Columbia Public Schools, University of Missouri faculty, local industries and parents. Curricular, extracurricular and training components are designed to nurture the participation, interest and knowledge of female students in the physical sciences.
Exploring Physics is an extra curricular program targeted to female students in grades 5-7. The program runs for eight 90-minute sessions, twice a week for four weeks. Students participate on a voluntary basis. The program focuses on hands-on activities that are concept oriented, with several activities structured to develop a given concept. Several of the activities are make-and-take projects. The program is run by science teachers, who receive content training at the Summer Teacher Institutes. The program is currently available at some elementary schools in the Columbia Public School District.
FEST is an evening program for middle school (grades 6 and 7) students and their parents. The goals of FEST are to encourage students and parents to work together on a science/technology project, and to raise awareness of future college and career opportunities in these areas. Students and parents build a working drawbridge, which incorporates concepts of structures, gears, motors and electrical circuits.
Saturday Scientist is a hands-on, industry based experience designed for junior high school students (grades 8 and 9). The goals of the program are to provide meaningful extra-curricular science experiences for the students and to increase students' awareness of potential careers in the physical sciences. After NSF funding ended, junior high schools in the Columbia Public School District have continued to offer the program with local support.
The Newton Summer Academy was designed as a residential institute for young women who had completed grades 9-11. The planning committee for the program consists of University of Missouri faculty from the departments of physics, industrial engineering, chemistry, mathematics, and science education, the K-12 science coordinator of the Columbia Public Schools, and a junior high school technology teacher. The Newton Summer Science Academies were held 1997, 1998 and 1999. The goals of the Academy were to provide
• hands-on integrated physical science experiences for female students
• opportunities for students to meet women scientists who may serve as role models, and
• a peer group of female students who are interested in the physical sciences
A Gender Equity course, offered in Winter 1999, focused on research involving gender issues in science education and strategies to promote effective instruction for all K12 students. Teachers used course materials, video tapes of their teaching, and other curricular materials from their classrooms to reflect on their teaching. At the conclusion of the course, teachers developed a professional action plan relating to a topic covered in the course to be implemented in their classroom during the following semester.
Evaluation instruments were designed for each program. Evaluations typically consist of pre and post evaluations. In several of the programs students' and parents' prior science experiences are surveyed. Interest, confidence and attitudes are also surveyed. These surveys have been used by several other programs, including Igniting Girls' Interest in Science by Sheryl A. Tucker, Deborah L. Hanuscin, and Constance J. Bearnes, Science, 21 March 2008: Vol. 319. no. 5870, pp. 1621 - 1622.