BCOE Professor is a GEM

GEMS summer camp

KENNESAW, Ga. (March 17, 2015) – To her colleagues in the Bagwell College of Education,…

Georgia (Mar 17, 2015)

KENNESAW, Ga. (March 17, 2015) – To her colleagues in the Bagwell College of Education, Charlease Kelly-Jackson may seem to move in many directions in her scholarship and creative activities, but her many projects reveal a laser-like focus on one thing: getting more girls and more girls of color, in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.

“I am working on a lot of projects, and a lot of the work I do focuses on STEM, but through the angle of equity and diversity in teacher preparation,” she said. “I am focusing specifically on increasing the underrepresented minority in  STEM content and STEM education.”

Whether she’s working with a group of fourth- and fifth-grade girls at a STEM summer camp she created or collaborating with preservice teachers to help make science more relatable for English-language learners, Kelly-Jackson is hoping to encourage young girls to pursue their STEM dreams, and in the process help overcome a national shortage of teachers in the STEM disciplines.

“We (females) think we can’t perform there (in STEM fields) because we don’t see ourselves there,” she said. “A lot of STEM initiatives focus on middle and high school students, but I focus on elementary students. We have to start early because that’s when their innate curiosity starts – in elementary school.”

Last summer, Kelly-Jackson, an assistant professor of science education in the Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education, created the GEMS program, Girls Engaged in Math and Science. The one-week summer camp gave 20 fourth- and fifth-grade girls from Russell Elementary School the opportunity to work with Kell High School’s robotics program.

“The students did a great job,” Kelly-Jackson said. “I’m excited about the outcome because the program not only built a sense of community among the girls, the STEM activities allowed the girls to design solutions to real-world problems. Watching the girls’ team building skills and confidence grow was simply amazing!”

The GEMS program was funded by a $9,800 grant Kelly-Jackson received from the Office of the Vice President for Research. She was able to secure the grant through a successful proposal she wrote as an A.T.O.M.S. (Advancing the Teaching of Mathematics and Science) Center fellow. She is in her second term as a two-year fellow.

In her role as a fellow, she also recently oversaw the successful continuation of a Georgia Department of Education Math and Science Partnership (MSP) grant worth more than $1 million. She is also the co-principal investigator on a pending $420,000 National Science Foundation grant, “Improving Undergraduate STEM Education for Elementary Preservice Teachers: Impact of an Experiential, Integrated Formal/Informal Earth and Life Sciences Course.”

“We’ve had the MSP grant for about five years; you have to reapply every two years, but what makes this time unique is we added an elementary science endorsement,” she said. “Elementary school teachers teach all subjects, but what this endorsement does is tell everyone you are qualified to teach science.”

Eighty elementary school teachers from the Cobb County School District, Marietta City Schools, Bartow County and Rome are participating in the two-year program. The same grant is also funding a middle school earth science cohort, a biology cohort, and a middle and secondary math cohort, for a total of 160 teachers.

The A.T.O.M.S. Center is a collaboration between the College of Science and Mathematics and the Bagwell College of Education. The Center was established to address the needs of Georgia’s K-12 schools in science and mathematics. It also enhances faculty excellence by promoting scholarship and research efforts of all faculty members engaged in K-12 science and mathematics education.

The competitive fellowship process gives successful faculty course release time and an office in the A.T.O.M.S. Center.

--By Jennifer Hafer


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu