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USM Launches STEM on Demand: Virtual Lessons for K-8 Mississippi Teachers

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 05:00pm | By: Van Arnold

The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) has launched an innovative program to support teachers across the state with virtual lessons in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for kindergarten through 8th grade classrooms in Mississippi.

The STEM on Demand program, administered through USM’s Center for Science and Mathematics Education (CSME), is being funded by a $397,789 grant from the U.S. Department of Education. In addition to the virtual synchronous lessons, accompanying materials/supply kits will be made available to participating teachers and their students free of charge.

The one-year program was developed in response to the academic stresses created by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Lessons are taught by USM professors and scientists on Zoom, with times and lengths adjusted to meet teachers’ K-8 classroom schedules.

“Public school teachers have just come through one of the most challenging years in history,” said Dr. Julie Cwikla, Interim CSME Director. “The University of Southern Mississippi is here to provide open access to University scientists, standards-based lessons, Q&As with scientists, and rich, hands-on STEM learning opportunities for the children of Mississippi.”

Cwikla noted that the Office of Gov. Tate Reeves was also instrumental in helping to secure the grant.

Cwikla, a professor of mathematics education, is leading STEM on Demand, along with her CSME colleagues, Dr. Rachel Gisewhite, marine science education; Dr. Kendrick Buford, biology education; and Dr. Allison Downing, science education.

“I am excited to be able to assist Mississippi teachers in any way we can by bringing classroom resources directly to them and their students during this challenging time,” said Dr. Downing.

Teachers can reach out to CSME to help them with STEM content and standards they find more challenging or for an area in which they want something new and interesting for their students. STEM on Demand will provide young children in Mississippi with access to University professors, providing interactive hands-on learning experiences and equally important Mississippi role models and scientists in STEM.

“I am so proud of the outreach and service coming out of the Center for Science and Mathematics Education. Leading the state in STEM education is part of the fabric and history of our institution,” said Dr. Chris Winstead, Dean of USM’s College of Arts and Science.

CSME is currently booking STEM lessons with topics ranging from DNA to astronomy to marine science

“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way teachers and students interact and created a space for new and innovative ways to connect and learn,” said Dr. Gisewhite. “I am so excited for this opportunity to bring fun, engaging, and impactful STEM lessons directly to K-8 classrooms.”

To learn more about the program, visit:

About CSME Since its inception in 1964, The Center for Science and Mathematics Education has served almost 1,500 graduate students in mathematics and science education. Our graduate degree programs currently serve nearly 40 masters and doctoral level students in mathematics education and science education. The center strives to stimulate, develop, and support interdisciplinary STEM education research initiatives both on and off the Hattiesburg and Gulf Park campuses. Additionally, the center designs and provides STEM Education outreach activities for the Gulf South region.