UW-Stevens Point is among first to offer new science education major

By Patrick Lynn

UW-Stevens Point will offer a new science education degree this fall—one of the first in the University of Wisconsin System.

The natural science for science teaching certification is a collaborative bachelor’s degree program. Students will take core science courses and select a minor in one of those disciplines and a certificate in an additional field of science.

The collaboration is among the School of Education, Departments of Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy, Geography and Geology, and the College of Natural Resources.

Krista Slemmons, associate professor of biology and coordinator of the new program, said it better prepares students to effectively teach the interdisciplinary nature of science.

“Of critical importance, it also addresses the need for qualified science teachers in school districts across the state,” she said.

The most recent Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) report on school staffing cited chronic staffing shortages across many disciplines, including science. Teacher shortages were most pronounced in northern Wisconsin school districts and in science, technology, math (STEM) fields. Fifty percent of school districts described their teacher shortage as “extreme.”

Christina Mitchell. (Contributed)

Christina Mitchell, Wausau, is one of the students who will help meet this teacher’s need soon. She is majoring in natural science life education, has a minor in biology with licensure in chemistry and environmental studies.

“I have always wanted to be a teacher. I loved school from the very beginning and enjoyed helping others answer their questions and curiosities,” she said.

The new natural science major will help future science teachers choose an additional area of expertise, Mitchell said. “By having a certificate along with your major and minor, you are that much more prepared in another area of science. Diversifying your knowledge in different subfields will only benefit your students.”

UW-Stevens Point will be able to support students even better by helping them become comfortable with various topics as the world of science continually develops, she said.

The science coursework natural science majors will take provides ample knowledge to teach any science discipline in grades 4-12 and also allows students to focus on an area of emphasis.

“We’re one of the first institutions in the UW System to offer this program, and it will help fill the void of much-needed science educators in our state,” said Jason D’Acchioli, assistant dean, School of Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry.

For more information, see the Science Education website.