Over the past two years, North Dakota State University (NDSU) has conducted a National Science Foundation sponsored Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) grant focused on Precision Agriculture and Sustainability. For six weeks in the summer, middle and high school math and science teachers engage in authentic research projects through the mechanical engineering and the electrical and computer engineering departments. The main goal of the program is for teachers to develop an understanding of research principles, engineering applications, and the engineering design process. By accompanying the research with professional learning sessions on effective pedagogy, active classroom environments, and student-centered learning strategies, these teachers are building capacity to increase student engagement. The intent is to create a shift in how the teacher approaches lesson plan design creating more meaningful, engaging, and authentic learning experiences for their students. Since the majority of the school systems in the upper Midwest are characterized as rural, a unique aspect of this program is the focus on this demographic of teacher. To create the largest possible impact in a rural educational community, this program selects participants who are the only math or science teacher in their school building. In addition, each in-service teacher works alongside a pre-service teacher in NDSU’s mathematics education or science education program. This provides a valuable experience for both the in-service and pre-service teachers while engaging in a collaborative experience. Having completed two summers of the three-year grant period, data results show the program has been highly effective in transforming the teacher’s approach to classroom practices that increase student engagement. Results also demonstrate a positive impact on the pre- and in-service teacher’s shift in attitude towards general classroom practices and teaching pedagogy. This paper describes the program goals and outcomes, specifics of the summer experience, data collection, results, and the next steps for research and practice.
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