Initial Publication Date: May 29, 2018

Center for Science and the Schools

CSATS works collaboratively with scientists and engineers at Penn State and in industry to design, develop, and implement STEM outreach programs for K-16 education.

Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus
Established: 2004

Profile submitted by Kathleen M. Hill

Vision and Goals

CSATS' mission is to develop mutually beneficial and sustainable relationships between Penn State STEM researchers and K-12 schools that enhance K-12 science education. Ultimately, our programs seek to support teachers in preparing the future STEM workforce by providing learning experiences that engage students in the practices and thinking used by scientists and engineers.

Center/Program Structure

CSATS Organizational Chart (Acrobat (PDF) 67kB May29 18)

CSATS is a Penn State Center located within the College of Education. The Director is a non-tenure faculty position responsible for supervising five other academic positions and one administrative position. The five academic positions fulfill different roles - outreach liaison, secondary-level STEM outreach specialists, computer science education specialist, and elementary-level STEM outreach specialist. The administrative position assists in logistics, budgets, and general administrative support.

Are there advantages of being structured this way?
CSATS being located within the College of Education is beneficial as the Dean and Associate Dean advocate for the Center.

Are there particular challenges that result from this structure?
Given that CSATS work is quite different from other faculty in the College of Education, it can be challenging to communicate the impact of our efforts to the university. A team of seven full-time employees is often challenging to support through grants and contracts.


CSATS receives funds from the university, which covers only a portion of the operating costs. The remaining costs are covered by grants and contracts. Our efforts are built into the budgets of federal grants. We also secure fee-for-service contracts with school districts.

How has this funding structure influenced the undergraduate STEM education programming the center offers?
We do not work with undergraduate students.

What are the specific advantages of having a center funded in this way?
Without institutional support, CSATS would not be able to operate as grants and contracts would not cover all of the Center's expenses.

What are the challenges?
Funding on grants and contracts ebbs and flows. Federal grants are extremely competitive. School districts have limited funds for professional development.

Has this funding structure has changed over time?
CSATS has grown over the past three years, which has required additional work in grant-writing in order to secure needed funding.

Description of Programming

The Penn State Center for Science and the Schools (CSATS) programs are developed, implemented, and evaluated as broader impacts or outreach components of research grants. Depending on funding and length of time of the research grant, we can include multiple programs and design other supportive activities to maximize impact.

i-STEAM Workshops: The i-STEAM workshops are one to two-day workshops offered during the academic year for K-12 teachers. We engage teachers in inquiry-based activities designed to integrate multiple disciplines, including science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. CSATS offers follow-up support to teachers who elect to incorporate the workshop activities in their classrooms.

Summer One-Week Workshops: One-week workshops are developed in collaboration with STEM researchers. These summer programs aim to build teachers' understanding of ongoing research projects. Workshop activities are designed to engage teachers in current research practices within STEM disciplines in ways that are accessible to K-12 students. After the workshop, CSATS offers follow-up support to teachers who elect to incorporate these activities in their classrooms.

CSATS Fellows: Research Experience for Teachers (RET) Program -
7-week immersion experiences that actively involve teachers in authentic research projects alongside university and industry scientists and engineers during the summer. CSATS provides professional development to assist teachers in integrating related research projects in their classrooms. The CSATS fellows participate in the Penn State RET/REU Symposium. CSATS provides academic-year support to teachers as they engage K-12 students in research projects.

Successes and Impacts

In 2017, we had 289 K-12 teacher participants in CSATS programs: 11 CSATS fellows, 29 in summer workshops, 239 in academic year programs.

Evaluation and Assessment

How does your center demonstrate its value, both in terms of assessing its own programming and responding to external evaluation?
We have program participants complete evaluations at conclusion of each workshop.

Elements Contributing to Success

Supplemental Materials