USF Shares STEM Lessons Through Joliet Schools Partnership

Feb. 16, 2017 | Joliet, Ill.

A University of St. Francis student works with kindergarten students at Isaac Singleton Elementary in Joliet.

A USF student-teacher engages in hands-on learning with a student at Isaac Singleton Elementary in Joliet.

USF students use daily assessment data to plan their next day’s instruction while teaching STEM units at Isaac Singleton Elementary in Joliet.

The University of St. Francis (USF) has continued to develop an innovative partnership with Joliet Public School District 86.

The Joliet Professional Development School Partnership (JPDSP) was established in 2004 to cultivate collaboration between local schools and the university community. Specifically, USF and District 86 schools were committed to supporting each other in developing college students who will become successful teachers in our local community, as well as providing innovative experiences for District 86 grade school students.

As part of the elementary science methods course, USF students learn about current research in science education as outlined in the Next Generation Science Standards (2013). Part of the updated standards is an emphasis on exposing elementary students to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) content to promote 21st century skills and deepen student learning by exploring the connectivity among the content areas.

STEM Units

The culminating project in the science methods course allows USF teacher candidates the opportunity to design a weeklong STEM-based unit of instruction and co-teach it at Isaac Singleton Elementary School. The units designed are aligned to current research, the Next Generation Science Standards and the District 86 science curriculum guides. Candidates are able to choose their own grade levels and unit topics aligned to the specific scope and sequence of their cooperating teachers’ curricula.

Planning for the unit begins when student-teachers visit their cooperating teachers’ classrooms at Isaac Singleton to pre-assess their students and gain an understanding of their learning needs. The teacher-candidates then then return to class at USF to learn about best practices and methodologies for science instruction at the elementary level. Their final step is visiting their cooperating teachers’ classrooms for an entire week to deliver instruction and engage students in hands-on STEM learning under the guidance of their methods instructor. Throughout the teaching week, USF students collect assessment data to inform day-to-day differentiation of instruction and they also monitor student growth as a result of their teaching throughout the unit.

Not only has the unit proven to be a successful means for preparing future teachers for STEM teaching in the field, but it has also become a meaningful opportunity to enhance the school’s existing science curriculum, which has just begun transitioning to incorporate the new standards. Exposing District 86 students to STEM not only prepares them for the technological advancements of the future as citizens, but it also exposes them to a variety of content that can prepare them for future careers in STEM fields.

For more information about the JPDSP partnership or the College of Education, please contact Erin Evans at 815-740-3382 or

The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves 3,850 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 48,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.