Stevens Institute of Technology Awarded $11.5 Million NSF Math-Science Partnership Grant with 12 School District Partners Across NJ

HOBOKEN, N.J. - The Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education (CIESE) at Stevens Institute of Technology has been awarded a highly competitive, five-year, $11.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation whose goal is to enhance teaching and learning of physical and earth science in Grades 3-8 in 12 diverse districts across New Jersey. The PISA 2 (Partnership to Improve Student Achievement in Physical Sciences: Integrating STEM Approaches) program will employ contemporary societal challenges, such as climate change and energy consumption, as vehicles to engage and motivate teachers and their students in science and engineering learning, and to foster 21 st century skills such as creativity, innovation, problem-solving, critical thinking, and collaboration.

Participating districts include: the districts of Bayonne, West New York, Jersey City, Hoboken, Morris, Lakewood, Margate, Red Bank, Saddle Brook, Princeton, Camden, and Mustard Seed School in Hoboken. Other key partners include: St. Peter’s College, Columbia University/Teachers College, the NJ Department of Education, the National Science Resources Center (NSRC), and Nyre & Associates education research consultants.

“CIESE has been a national leader in K-12 STEM education and this grant will have a significant impact in shaping the technical and innovation capacity of the next generation of teachers and students,” said George P. Korfiatis, Stevens Provost and University Vice President.

Over five years, 400 Grade 3-8 teachers from partner districts will participate in coursework leading to a 15-credit graduate certificate program in science and related professional development to strengthen their science content knowledge in physical and earth sciences. In addition, teachers will improve their understanding of how students learn STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects, their use of science inquiry and engineering design, and their ability to facilitate student learning of 21 st century skills such as innovation and creativity, problem-solving, and teamwork. Teachers may earn graduate credits or professional development credit, will receive monthly classroom coaching visits, participate in online learning communities, and earn financial rewards to support their professional growth and improve their classroom practice. School and district administrators will benefit from training that will build leadership capacity for STEM and guide strategic planning for STEM improvements in their districts.

“An innovative feature of this program, and one which previous CIESE research has shown to be effective in promoting significant learning gains in science for elementary students, is the teaching of science through an integrated approach, in which mathematics, technology, and particularly, engineering, are employed to engage students in science inquiry, problem-based learning, and engineering design challenges,” said Beth McGrath, director of CIESE, which is leading the program. “In addition, the program’s holistic approach, which emphasizes improving teacher content knowledge, pedagogy, as well as school and district capacity-building and leadership for STEM, is a notable feature of PISA 2,” McGrath said.

Dr. Edward Whittaker, Professor of Physics is principal investigator of PISA 2 and leading the course development and instruction. “In the United States today, most elementary and middle school teachers lack a major or minor in the science disciplines they are called upon to teach, and this is especially true in physical science,” said Dr. Whittaker. “These courses are part of a project whose goal is to change that situation dramatically in the State of New Jersey.”   

In addition to Dr. Whittaker, three Stevens faculty will be developing and teaching new courses for this program: Dr. Ronald Besser, Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science; Dr. Frank Fisher, Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering; and Dr. Thomas Herrington, Associate Professor, Department of Civil, Environmental and Ocean Engineering.

About the Center for Innovation in Engineering & Science Education (CIESE)

The mission of the Stevens Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education (CIESE) is to motivate and support educators and students to pursue and succeed in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) study and careers. Working with K-16 educators, researchers, policymakers, governmental agencies and other organizations, CIESE develops curricula, conducts professional development programs, and researches new methodologies to strengthen STEM education.

Founded in 1988, CIESE’s programs have directly impacted more than 30,000 educators in New Jersey and throughout the world, and have garnered nearly $49 million in external support. CIESE programs and curricula have been recognized by national and international organizations, including the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Teachers Association, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and others.

CIESE’s portfolio of 30 Internet-based classroom projects, which utilize real time data and global telecollaboration to engage students in authentic science investigations, science inquiry, problem-solving, and quantitative analysis, are used by an estimated 100,000 students from 35 countries each year. Through its Engineering Our Future NJ program, CIESE has pioneered the development and dissemination of K-12 engineering curricula and teacher training programs throughout the state and nation.

For more information about Stevens’ Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education please visit

About Stevens Institute of Technology

Founded in 1870 and celebrating 140 Years of Innovation, Stevens Institute of Technology, The Innovation University TM , lives at the intersection of industry, academics and research.  The University's students, faculty and partners leverage their collective real-world experience and culture of innovation, research and entrepreneurship to confront global challenges in engineering, science, systems and technology management.

Based in Hoboken, N.J. and with a location in Washington, D.C., Stevens offers baccalaureate, master’s, certificates and doctoral degrees in engineering, the sciences and management, in addition to baccalaureate degrees in business and liberal arts.  Stevens has been recognized by both the US Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security as a National Center of Excellence in the areas of systems engineering and port security research. The University has a total enrollment of more than 2,200 undergraduate and 3,700 graduate students with almost 450 faculty. Stevens’ graduate programs have attracted international participation from China, India, Southeast Asia, Europe and Latin America as well as strategic partnerships with industry leaders, governments and other universities around the world.  Additional information may be obtained at and