The initial idea of the Integrating Science, Math, and Technology Program began in 1981. The Minority Participation in the Earth Science (MPES) Program of the U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California, began collecting data on reasons why the ethnic backgrounds of geologists were not diverse; mainly consisting of American males with an northern European ancestry. The data seemed to indicate that women of all backgrounds and men of mainly African, Hispanic, American Indian and Asian heritage did not have the basic background to even consider geology as a career. Male geologists also tended to come from parents from a professional background and could attribute their fascination with geology to family outings where natural sciences were the main focus (i.e. hiking in Yosemite or Grand Canyon).
Since we were interested in getting students in low income areas exposed to geological principles, we realized that we needed to develop a program that reached elementary children. We surveyed students on their attitude toward science in general. The research conclude that children's attitudes toward science are molded early in their educational career. Our data was collected during 1,000+ visits to San Francisco Bay Area schools in approximately 20 school districts by conducting presentations to students with the teachers available. The grades ranged from kindergarten to sixth grade and included low and high income student populations.
The students were surveyed by asking them to list their favorite subjects. As data accumulated (from approximately 10,000 students), the more it was obvious their favorite subjects were earth science based. We asked children to rank different science subjects. The most liked were volcanoes, earthquakes, minerals, rocks, animals, and landslides. The least liked were chemistry and physics.
During the visits, several conclusions could be made. (1) Economic status of the school site seemed to be a critical factor in determining the overall level of science background. (2) Teachers on a whole did not have an adequate background to perform science experiments and discussion. (3) Materials were not available for teachers, especially in the low income schools. (4) Administrators were unaware of the need for a well balanced science curriculum. (5) Curriculum guides in science issued by the school district were inadequate.
In an effort to help educators find a solution, the MPES Program surveyed the majority of educational science materials available for elementary grades. The materials usually lacked a good foundation in the earth sciences. In many instances, the information was incorrect or out of date. We found it very disturbing that the topics children liked most were not explored in greater detail.
With this data, the MPES Program decided to design a school science program to guide teachers in developing a more rigorous hands-on program. The scope of the project began to evolve into more than just earth sciences, so a new organization called the Math/Science Nucleus (MSN) was created in 1982. Over 50 scientists and educators were the basis of the new tax-exempt organization. A grant from the Gerbode Foundation, San Francisco, provided seed money to hire Angela Montez as the first executive director. Under her leadership, along with the guidance of the Board of Directors, the Math/Science Nucleus and the U.S. Geological Survey (MPES Program) undertook the first pilot site that developed the I. Science MaTe program. A grant from the California License Plate Program provided money to continue developing the units within the curriculum as they were piloted in the schools.
Hundreds of people throughout the country helped in the development of this project. There have been many stages in this project from developing philosophy, writing lessons, researching science, teaching the students, comparing implementation modes, refining units and determining how to assess children.
The product is one of the most innovative, comprehensive, rigorous, and fun science programs that have emerged in the United States. It brings students and teachers into the future so students will understand science and how it is part of their lives.
Originally this reference curriculum was available in hard copy. Computer and internet technology at the turn of the 21st century allows for "electronic textbooks." Currently the I. Science MaTe is only available through the internet and CD. There are sections for teachers as well as interactive components for students, including story books, multimedia activities and online tests. Teachers now have available "slideshows" which help the teachers use the computer to give a graphic rich presentation.
Technology is now allowing the Math/Science Nucleus to experiment with implementation models in developing countries, where the promise of science is needed for any growing country.