The first task of the committee was to summarize the legislative authority for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and training granted to federal agencies with substantial programs in earth science. These agencies include the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and National Park Service, both covered under Department of the Interior (DOI) authorities, National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy (DOE), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Smithsonian Institution. The following legislative authorizations for federal agencies engaging in STEM education were summarized from Coordinating Federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Investments: Progress Report (Co-STEM, 2012) and from information provided by Robert Ridky, USGS, acquired while he was serving as the DOI representative on the National Science and Technology Council’s Education Subcommittee. It includes authorities both for general STEM initiatives and for earth science education initiatives, defined in this report as excluding oceanic, atmospheric, and space science.
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
The Youth Conservation Corps Act of 1970 established a permanent program in the USDA and DOI for young adults to perform tasks on lands and waters administered by the two departments. The acts also include the authority to fund the costs of projects carried out on public lands by other qualified youth or conservation corps.
The Public Lands Corps Act of 1993 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.
The National Geologic Mapping Act of 1992 (Public Law 102-285 and subsequent reauthorizations) established the USGS National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, which includes an education component “(A) to develop the academic programs that teach earth-science students
the fundamental principles of geologic mapping and field analysis; and (B) to provide for broad education in geologic mapping and field analysis through support of field teaching institutes.”
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
National Science Foundation Act of 1950 (42 USC § 1862)—“The Foundation is authorized and directed to initiate and support . . . science education programs at all levels in the mathematical, physical, medical, biological, social, and other sciences, and to initiate and support . . . engineering education programs at all levels.” It also authorizes NSF to promote and strengthen research and education in science and engineering, and awards “grants to associate-degree-granting colleges, and consortia thereof, to assist them in providing education in advanced-technology fields, and to improve the quality of their core education courses in science and mathematics.” They are further authorized to award grants to establish mathematics and science education partnership programs with nonprofits and higher education institutions, with the goal of improving elementary and secondary mathematics and science instruction.
America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-358)—Section 505 states that the director shall collect, acquire, analyze, report, and disseminate statistical data on the condition and progress of STEM education. Section 508(c)(5) authorizes a partnership program for innovation that will “broaden the participation of all types of institutions of higher education in activities to meet STEM workforce needs and promote innovation and knowledge transfer.” Sections 515, 516, and 527 provide grants for undergraduate internships that integrate private-sector and STEM coursework, for cyber-enabled learning for the STEM workforce, and for “research-based reforms in master’s and doctoral level STEM education that emphasize preparation for diverse careers utilizing STEM degrees,” respectively.
DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
Department of Energy Science Education Enhancement Act of 1990 authorized the Secretary of DOE to “establish programs to enhance the quality of mathematics, science, and engineering education.” This included research opportunities for underrepresented groups, high school students and teachers, and higher education; inner-city and rural partnerships; and museum-based programs. Further, the act established centers of excellence in STEM at high-need public secondary schools located in regions served by the national laboratories.
The Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act of 2000 directs DOE to “promote education and training in methane hydrate resource research and resource development through fellowships or other means for graduate education and training.”
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 contains a number of provisions regarding education. Section 971 directs the Office of Science to support education and outreach activities in energy science-related fields. Section 622 authorizes the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to provide scholarships and a fellowship program and Section 651 directs the agency to establish research activities with Hispanic-serving institutions, historically Black colleges or universities, and Tribal colleges. Section 954 authorizes the support “of fundamental nuclear sciences, engineering, and health physics research through a nuclear engineering education and research program.” Section 983 establishes a science and engineering education pilot program.
America COMPETES Act of 2007—Section 5003(b)(1) directed DOE to appoint a director of science, engineering, and mathematics education with “the principal responsibility for administering science, engineering, and mathematics education programs across all functions of the department.” It also established grants for the creation or expansion of “public, statewide specialty secondary
schools that provide comprehensive science and mathematics (including technology and engineering) education to improve the academic achievement of students in science and mathematics.”
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 (Public Law 85-568)—Section 102(d) mandates that “aeronautical and space activities of the United States shall be conducted so as to contribute materially” to “the expansion of human knowledge of the Earth and of phenomena in the atmosphere and space.”
NASA Authorization Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-155)—Section 612 directs NASA to “develop or expand programs to extend science and space educational outreach to rural communities and schools.” Section 615 directs the NASA administrator to “strive to ensure equal access for minority and economically disadvantaged students to NASA’s education programs.” Section 616 authorizes NASA to award grants and cooperative agreements with museums and planetariums for the enhancement of programs “related to space exploration, aeronautics, space science, earth science, or microgravity.”
NASA Authorization Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-422)—Section 703 states that “NASA’s educational programs are important sources of inspiration and hands-on learning for the next generation of engineers and scientists which should be supported.” Section 704(a) encourages NASA to include other federal agencies in its planning efforts to use the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory for STEM education activities. Section 704(c) directs NASA to “continue its emphasis on the importance of education to expand opportunities for Americans to understand and participate in NASA’s aeronautics and space projects by supporting and enhancing science and engineering education, research, and public outreach efforts.”
NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-267)—Section 504(6) directs NASA to provide initial financial assistance to the organizations managing the ISS National Laboratory to enable it to initiate the “development and implementation of scientific outreach and education activities designed to ensure effective utilization of ISS research capabilities . . . and the development of educational programs . . . including student-focused research opportunities for conduct of research in ISS national laboratory facilities.”
America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-358)—Section 202 directs that NASA “shall develop and maintain educational programs to: [c]arry out and support research based programs and activities designed to increase student interest and participation in STEM, including students from minority and underrepresented groups; [i]mprove public literacy in STEM; [e]mploy proven strategies and methods for improving student learning and teaching in STEM; [p]rovide curriculum support materials and other resources. . . [and] create and support opportunities for enhanced and ongoing professional development for teachers . . .” Section 204 states that “the ISS represents a valuable and unique national asset which can be utilized to increase educational opportunities and scientific and technological innovation,” and directs that NASA “evaluate and, where possible, expand efforts to maximize NASA’s contribution to interagency efforts to enhance [STEM] education capabilities . . .”
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Land Grant University Statutes (Morrill Acts; Equity in Education Land-Grant Status Act of 1994)—USDA supports cooperative research and postsecondary agricultural education programs, with state partners being the land grant universities. In addition to the original land grant institutions from the Morrill Acts (which includes 18 historically Black land grant colleges of agriculture), 31 Native American colleges gained land grant status in 1994.
Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act of 1998—Section 406 authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to “establish an integrated research, education, and extension competitive grant program to provide funding for integrated, multifunctional agricultural research, extension, and education activities.”
Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-246)—Section 7406 amends section 2(b) of the Competitive, Special, and Facilities Research Grant Act to authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to establish the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), a competitive grant program to provide funding for fundamental and applied research, education, and extension to address food and agricultural sciences. Grant priorities include natural resources and environment, among others.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
The National Environmental Education Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-619) calls for the EPA Office of Environmental Education to (1) develop and support programs to improve understanding of the natural and built environment and the relationships between humans and their environment; (2) support development and dissemination of model curricula, educational materials, and training programs for elementary and secondary students and other interested groups; and (3) manage federal grant assistance provided to local education agencies, institutions of higher education, and other not-for-profit organizations. The act also establishes an environmental education and training program to train educational professionals in the development and delivery of environmental education and training programs and studies. The act calls for EPA to provide internships to postsecondary students and fellowships for in-service teachers with agencies of the federal government.
NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION
The National Sea Grant College Program Act (Public Law 107-299) encourages National Sea Grant Colleges to engage in research, education, and outreach programs.
Coastal Zone Management Act (Public Law 109-58) and Section 1461 of the act, establishing the National Estuarine Research Reserve System—The act requires NOAA to provide opportunities for public coastal and marine education and interpretation.
Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-11); Title XII – Oceans—Subtitle A–, Ocean Exploration Act calls for NOAA to create a National Ocean Exploration program that includes education and outreach activities to improve public understanding of the ocean and coastal resources. Subtitle B–, Ocean and Coastal Mapping Integration Act calls for NOAA to create up to three joint coastal and mapping centers to provide graduate education and training in ocean and coastal mapping sciences. Subtitle C–, Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act of 2009, calls for NOAA to create a national ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes observing system that includes public outreach and education activities.
America COMPETES Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-69)—Section 4002 directs NOAA to “carry out and support research based programs and activities designed to increase student interest and participation in STEM.” The section also calls for NOAA to “create and support opportunities for enhanced and ongoing professional development for teachers.”
America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-358)—Section 302 states that the educational programs developed by NOAA shall be designed to increase student interest and participation in STEM, improve public literacy in STEM, employ methods for improving student learning and teaching in STEM, and provide curriculum support materials that can be integrated with comprehensive STEM education.
Presidential Memorandum: America’s Great Outdoors, April, 16, 2010—The memorandum calls for NOAA, along with other agencies, to create opportunities for the public to engage in environmental conservation activities and engage in educational experiences in outdoor environments managed by the federal government.
Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes, July 19, 2010 (Executive Order 13547)—The Executive Order encourages NOAA to foster public understanding of the value of the ocean, coastal resources, and the Great Lakes.
An Act to establish the “Smithsonian Institution,” for the Increase and Diffusion of Knowledge Among Men (9 Stat. 102, 1846)—The act created the Smithsonian Institution as a trust instrumentality of the United States for the “increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.” This organic act included the first functions, including creating research laboratories as well as a museum, observatory, and library.