Learning through Ecology and Environmental Field Studies (LEEFS) creates partnerships between Columbia University graduate students and science teachers in New York City public schools. The graduate students selected for LEEFS receive National Science Foundation GK-12 Fellowships that include a stipend and tuition assistance. In return the fellows each work with one of our partnering schools, enhancing science education for grades 6 through 12. Teachers in the program receive a stipend and professional development through the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC), the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), or through the Columbia Summer Research Program (CSRP).
LEEFS is funded by a $3.1 million, 5-year grant from NSF's Division of Education and Human Resources. NSF GK-12 grants were awarded to a select number of universities around the country to support educational collaborations in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. LEEFS is Columbia's third GK-12 grant, following one awarded jointly to the Departments of Biology and Mathematics and one given to the School of Engineering and Applied Mathematics.
LEEFS fellows spend one day each week co-teaching, either in classrooms or on field trips, enhancing their communication skills and preparing them to be citizens of science and well-practiced future professors. They bring their research to grade 6-12 students, assist teachers and students in setting up environmental monitoring programs at their schools, lead in-class labs, help teach lessons aligned with the NYC curriculum, and mentor students individually. Teachers are offered summer internships and professional development workshops and participate directly in ecological or environmental research projects, many of which have field components in the New York metro area. These internships help expand and deepen their knowledge in ecology and environmental and earth sciences and build enthusiasm for research and inquiry-based, hands-on learning and stimulate student interest in careers in the STEM disciplines.