William Paterson University students pursuing careers as K-12 teachers, as well as teachers working in the Paterson School District, will be afforded the opportunity to travel to Senegal and The Gambia in summer 2018 through a Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Kabba E. Colley and Darlene V. Russell, professors in William Paterson’s College of Education, have been co-awarded $99,000 to lead the 12-week group research project. The grant seeks to advance teachers’ global and cultural awareness of and interdisciplinary STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) instruction about Senegal and Africa. This is the first grant for a long-term group research project received by William Paterson University from the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Program.
While in Senegal – the epicenter of art, culture, education and science in Africa – the group of selected applicants will focus on the SeneGambia River Basin region, where they will conduct environmental field observation, interact with agro-ecological communities, visit historical and cultural sites in Senegal and The Gambia, and attend seminars and classes at the host university, University of Thies. They will also collaborate with that university’s students and faculty on STEAM curriculum design and instructional activities relating to the region.
Before the grant-funded trip, selected participants will be required to take French language classes, as well as cross-cultural sensitivity training and research methodology seminars. Following the trip, participants will be charged with creating a STEAM curriculum guide, and preparing research reports and presentations for both national and international conferences and discussions at both William Paterson and the Paterson School District.
In recent years, there has been a push in American schools to “internationalize” classrooms and curricula, the professors say. Many school districts, like Paterson, have instituted global studies requirements wherein students must think critically about the world’s connectedness by exploring, among other topics: food systems, arts and culture, familial histories, climate change, human rights and socio-economic development.
Colley, who holds a doctorate from Harvard University, is associate professor of science education and chair of William Paterson’s Department of Secondary and Middle School Education. Prior to joining William Paterson, he served as academic vice president and dean at Goddard College. He was also a curriculum developer and director of evaluation for the Global Laboratory Project, an internationally recognized environmental science project funded by the National Science Foundation focused on engaging students and teachers around the world on project-based science education. His research focuses on gender issues in science, project-based STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) instruction, and international education. Colley’s most recent publications include Purposeful engagement in science learning: The project-based approach (Peter Lang Publishers) and “Teacher education in Anglophone West Africa: Does policy match practice?” in Wiseman, A.W. and Anderson, E. (eds), Annual Review of Comparative and International Education 2014, Volume 25, International Perspectives on Education and Society Series (Emerald Publishing); as well as “Science education in The Gambia: An optimistic model.” in Otulaja, F. S. and Ogunniyi, M. B. (Eds.), Handbook of Research in Science Education in Sub-Saharan Africa, The World of Science Education Volume 6, Cultural and Historical Perspectives on Science Education Series (Sense Publishers).
Russell, who holds a doctorate from Columbia University’s Teachers College, is a professor of English education at William Paterson. Her research interests include critical literary theory, cultural responsive pedagogy and intersectionality. In addition to her leadership roles in the American Educational Research Association and the Northeastern Educational Research Association, Russell is founder of the Nurturing Culturally Responsive Equity Teachers (NCRET) Research Project, designed to expose pre-service and in-service teachers to the value of culturally responsive instruction, and teaching for social justice and equity. Russell and NCRET scholars have presented at national conferences in more than 15 states. She is the co-author of two books with English education students, Leaving footprints: Critical narratives about identity and Intertwined: A Collection of personal narratives on relationships. She also co-edited a special issue of the journal Education Leadership Review titled “The Fiery Melting Pot: Immigrant Women and Girls in Pursuit of Social Justice.”
The activities and travel funded through this grant, Colley and Russell say, will enhance participants’ understanding and appreciation of New Jersey’s diverse student body, which includes significant and growing proportions of African students. They note that Paterson’s schools, from which teachers will be invited to apply for the project, house a significant population of students from the African diaspora.
The Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad program assists U.S. institutions of higher education, state departments of education and private nonprofit educational organizations with the promotion, improvement and development of area studies and modern foreign language. The funds support short-term overseas projects that focus on training, research and curriculum development in those disciplines.
William Paterson has a history of global educational exchanges. This summer, a group of education students and current teachers traveled to Israel under a Fulbright-Hays grant, and the University has taken part in student and/or teacher cross-cultural programming in the Netherlands, India, Namibia and South Korea.
Information about how to apply for the Senegal trip, as well as requirements, will be publicly announced in the coming months.
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