Most federal agencies are involved in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, commonly to satisfy legislative mandates, to support their mission, or to build a pool of potential recruits. This chapter summarizes the legislative authorities for STEM activities held by federal agencies with substantial earth science programs (Task 1) and describes federal earth science education programs that have a research or training component (Task 2). Agencies with relevant earth science programs include the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy (DOE), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Park Service (NPS), and the Smithsonian Institution.
Legislative authority to support STEM initiatives varies widely among federal agencies (see Appendix A). Agencies with clear authority include NASA and NOAA, which were required by the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-358) to “carry out and support research based programs and activities designed to increase student interest and participation in STEM.” NSF’s legislative authority, which dates back to the agency’s establishment, is “to initiate and support basic scientific research and programs to strengthen scientific research potential and science education programs at all levels in the mathematical, physical . . . and other sciences” (National Science Foundation Act of 1950, Public Law 81-507). EPA is authorized to “develop and support programs to improve understanding of the natural and built environment and the relationships between humans and their environment” (National Environmental Education Act of 1990, Public Law 101-619). The Smithsonian Institution’s mandate is perhaps the most expansive—it was created “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men” (Act of August 10, 1846, 9 Stat. 102).
Compared to these broad mandates, the Department of the Interior (DOI) has much less legislative authority for STEM education and it is related to youth conservation programs. The Youth Con-
servation Corps Act of 1970 (Public Law 91-378) established a program for young adults between ages 15 and 18 to perform tasks on lands and waters administered by USDA and DOI. The Public Lands Corps Act of 1993 (Public Law 91-378, as amended by Public Law 103-82) established a federal corps of young adults to work on conservation projects on federal, Indian, and Hawaiian homelands in exchange for living expenses and educational benefits.
Only a few federal agencies have specific authority for earth science education. The National Geologic Mapping Act of 1992 (Public Law 102-285) and subsequent reauthorizations provide for USGS-sponsored education in geologic mapping and field analysis. DOE has been directed to promote education and training in methane hydrate resources (Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act of 2000, Public Law 106-193) and to support education and outreach activities in energy science-related fields (Energy Policy Act of 2005, Public Law 109-58). NASA is authorized to fund museum and planetarium programs related to fields in its purview, including earth science (NASA Authorization Act of 2005, Public Law 109-155).
Each of the federal agencies with significant earth science programs was asked to identify and describe its earth science education programs that have a research or training component, either formal or informal. The programs identified by the agencies are summarized below and discussed in subsequent chapters. The descriptions reflect the status of the programs in 2012.
U.S. Geological Survey
National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program (EdMap)—The program seeks to educate students in proper geologic mapping and interpretation techniques, basic earth science principles, and the scientific method. It provides funding to geology professors to engage upper-level undergraduate and graduate students in geologic mapping projects. The program funds approximately 62 students per year and had a budget of about $470,000 in fiscal year (FY) 2012. More than 1,000 students have gone through the program since its inception 17 years ago.
Cooperative Summer Field Training Program (in collaboration with the National Association of Geoscience Teachers [NAGT])—In this program, NAGT solicits nominations of outstanding students from field camp directors and the USGS matches candidates with available scientists in USGS research units. The goal is to partner a highly able intern with a quality science mentor to work on a meaningful earth science research project. Created in 1965, the program funds 50 students per year and had a budget of $400,000 in FY 2012.
Youth Internship Program—The program provides work experience through two programs: the Student Temporary Employment Program and the Student Career Experience Program. In the latter program, which is available to students at the high school to graduate level, the work experience is directly related to the students’ academic field of study. The program funds 185 students per year and had a budget of $900,000 in FY 2012. The program has been in place for 3 years.
Hydrologic Technician Internship Program—The program seeks to stimulate ongoing interest in water science among college undergraduates and to build a pool of well-prepared new college graduates to fill vacancies at the USGS. Students are paired with an agency scientist for 10 weeks at a USGS facility. The program funds 15 students per year and had a budget of $75,000 in FY 2012. The program has been in place for 3 years.
National Science Foundation
Earth Sciences Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program—The program supports research by undergraduate students in any scientific area funded by NSF’s Division of Earth Science. The research may be part of an ongoing program or a project designed specifically for the REU Program. The program funds approximately 215 students per year and had a budget of $1,500,000 in FY 2012. The REU Program has existed for more than 20 years, and each REU site is funded for 3–5 years.
Opportunities for Enhancing Diversity in the Geosciences (OEDG) Program—The goals are to increase participation of African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Native Pacific Islanders, and persons with disabilities in earth science, and to increase the perceived relevance of earth science in underrepresented groups. Typically, NSF receives 80–100 proposals and funds about 35 percent of them. The program, which was created in 2002, funds about 14,000 students per year and had a budget of $3,600,000 in FY 2012.
Earth Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowships—The goal of the program is to provide early-career investigators with research and education experience that will help them establish leadership positions in the scientific community. Applicants submit proposals to carry out a research project and an education activity for 2 years at an institution of their choosing. Created in 2008, the program has funded at least 10 fellows per year at $85,000/year for each fellowship.
Geoscience Education (GeoEd) Program—The program supports projects to improve formal and informal earth science education, to increase the number of students pursuing earth science, to broaden participation of underrepresented groups, and to engage the public in Earth system science. The number of students varies by project, and the program’s budget was $1,500,000 in FY 2012. The program began in 1997.
Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program; in collaboration with NOAA and NASA)—The program connects students, teachers, and scientists through inquiry-based investigations of the Earth system. Program goals include improving student understanding of environmental and Earth system science, building a global community, and engaging the next generation of scientists and global citizens in activities to benefit the environment. The program has involved about 1.5 million students in approximately 24,000 schools since its inception in 1994. NSF’s contribution to the budget was $1,100,000 in FY 2012.
Geoscience Teacher Training (GEO-Teach) Program—This one-time competition in 2006 funded two programs designed to improve the quality of middle school and high school instruction in earth science. GEO-Teach focused on providing teachers with curricular materials and preservice teacher training, and creating in-service professional development programs to enhance students’ understanding of earth science. The program funded approximately 2,000 preservice teachers and had an annual budget of $2,000,000.
Department of Energy
Relevant programs are offered at the agency, national laboratory, facility, and research project levels. Examples are described below.
Office of Science Graduate Fellowship (SCGF) Program—The program provides 3 years of support to students pursuing graduate training in basic research in fields of study relevant to DOE’s Office of Science, including earth science. The ultimate objective is to encourage the development of the next generation of scientific and technical talent in the United States. The program was established in 2009 and supported 150 fellows in 2010. The budget for FY 2012 was $5,000,000.
Summer of Applied Geophysical Experience (SAGE) Program—The program introduces students to field methods in geophysical exploration and basic and applied research through a 6-week course. The program funds 20–25 undergraduates and 4 or 5 graduate students per year. SAGE was established in 1983 and had a budget of $120,000 in FY 2012.
Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships (SULI) Program—The program encourages undergraduate students to pursue STEM careers by providing research experiences at DOE laboratories, as well as providing professional development workshops and scientific lectures and seminars. Internships last 10 or 16 weeks and focus on projects that support the DOE mission. The program, which was established in 1999, has grown to support 700 interns per year and had a budget of $6,500,000 in FY 2012.
Community College Internships (CCI) Program—The program provides community college students interested in a technical career with technical training experiences and professional development activities at DOE laboratories. Students spend 10 weeks working on technologies, instrumentation projects, or major research facilities that support DOE’s mission. CCI supports nearly 100 interns per year and had a budget of $600,000 in FY 2012. It was established in 2001.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) programs—This education and public outreach program is associated with a satellite that measures the Earth’s gravity field. The goals include increasing teacher and student understanding of Earth’s history, Earth system science, and global climate change. The education component began in 2011, although the GRACE satellite has operated since 2002. The program funded 1,585 students and had a budget of $80,000 in FY 2012.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) projects—The program funds research, education, and extension grants that address issues important to sustaining agriculture, including renewable energy, natural resources, and environment. The education and extension efforts are intended to provide scientific knowledge needed for people to make informed practical decisions. The program, which began 2 years ago, currently funds about 500 undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and had a budget of $25,000,000 in FY 2012.
AFRI National Institute of Food and Agriculture Fellowships Grant Program—The program trains students in agricultural, forestry, and food science. The goals include strengthening the ability of the scientific community to meet challenges facing agriculture, forestry, and food systems; developing technical and academic competence of doctoral candidates; and strengthening research and teaching of postdoctoral scientists. The program funds 54 fellowships per year and had a budget of $12,000,000 in FY 2012. The first fellowships were awarded in 2011.
4-H Environmental Education/Earth Science programs—The program aims to increase science awareness, skills, and knowledge among youth and to increase awareness of opportunities to contribute to society using science skills. Programs are developed in partnership among the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, and state land grant colleges. Total enrollments for the programs were 1,390,553 in FY 2010, and federal support for the entire 4-H Program was approximately $47,000,000.1 These programs date to the inception of 4-H in 1902.
1 Estimate from the USDA Cooperative Extension System.
Environmental Protection Agency
Greater Research Opportunities (GRO) Undergraduate Fellowship Program—The program supports undergraduate students in environmental science fields for their last 2 years of study and provides an EPA internship. The program goal is to increase the number of environmental scientists, engineers, and policy experts in the U.S. workforce. The program has historically funded 40 students per year and had a budget of $2,000,000 in FY 2012. The program has existed since the early 1980s.
Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Graduate Fellowship Program—The program supports master’s and doctoral candidates in traditional and emerging disciplines of environmental science in order to increase the number of environmental scientists, engineers, and policy experts in the U.S. workforce. The program, which began in 1995, has historically funded 80–100 students per year and has had an annual budget between $3,400,000 and $4,500,000.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Educational Partnership Program (EPP) with Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs)—The goal is to increase the number of trained graduates, particularly from underrepresented communities, in STEM fields directly related to NOAA’s mission; and to strengthen collaborative research between NOAA scientists and researchers at MSIs. EPP components include scholarships and internships at NOAA facilities for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as competitive awards for Cooperative Science Centers to build capacity in mission areas at MSIs. The program funds an average of 300 students per year and has had an average annual budget of $14,000,000. The program has been in existence for 12 years.
National Park Service
Geoscientists-in-the-Parks Program (in partnership with the Geological Society of America)—The program places interns in parks to carry out research and monitoring and to provide earth science interpretation and education and outreach assistance to park managers and staff. More than 100 interns, mostly between the ages of 18 and 26, gain earth science work experience in the program each year. The annual budget varies and was approximately $740,000 in FY 2012. The program began in 1996.
Geoscience-Teachers-in-Parks Program (in partnership with NAGT)—Created in 1996, the program seeks to exchange learning and scientific research between the park, local earth science teachers, and communities; to advance educational and interpretive opportunities at the park; and to develop lifelong networks with local communities, schools, and the park. Two or three teachers participate every year. The annual budget is variable and was $12,000 in FY 2012.
National Fossil Day—This annual event is aimed at promoting public awareness and stewardship of fossils and increasing appreciation of their scientific and educational value. Hundreds of individual events and activities are hosted by more than 240 partners throughout the United States. The program reached about 15 million students in 2011 and had a budget of $40,000 in FY 2012. The first National Fossil Day was held in October 2010.
Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform (LASER) Program—The goal is to improve science education programs in U.S. schools through a K–8 inquiry-centered curriculum. LASER regions serve as focal points for building on previous accomplishments in regional K–8
science education reform. The program reaches school districts and states representing 30 percent of the K–8 population and has an annual budget of $3,000,000 to $6,000,000. LASER was launched in 1998.
Most federal earth science agencies have authority for STEM education, although the scope varies among agencies. NASA, NOAA, and NSF have the broadest authorities for STEM initiatives; DOI authority is limited to the establishment of youth conservation programs. Only a few agencies (i.e., NASA, DOE) have specific authority for earth science education. Nevertheless, most agencies with an earth science purview (e.g., USGS, NSF, DOE, NASA, NOAA, EPA, USDA, NPS, Smithsonian Institution) have developed earth science education and training programs. The programs vary widely in size, ranging from a few to thousands of participants per year, and in goals and objectives, as discussed in the next chapter.