Teachers, students, and parents nationwide are gaining an invaluable STEM education resource with the public unveiling of the Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Education Program Clearinghouse as part of National Transportation Week, May 14-21. The week in May that includes the third Friday of the month was proclaimed National Transportation Week by President Kennedy in recognition of the contribution transportation makes to our quality of life and U.S. economy, and the millions of U.S. citizens that work in transportation. (For more information read the article National Transportation Week: Transportation in Focus in this same issue of Fast Forward).
Garrett Morgan was an African American inventor in the early 1900s. His tie to transportation was the invention, in 1923, of a rudimentary version of the modern three-way traffic signal. The Morgan traffic signal was a T-shaped pole unit that featured three positions: Stop, Go, and an all-directional stop position. This third position halted traffic in all directions to allow pedestrians to cross streets more safely. He invented his new traffic signal after witnessing a collision between an automobile and horse drawn carriage at a particularly problematic intersection in his home town of Cleveland. Morgan acquired patents for his traffic signal in the United States, Britain, and Canada and eventually sold the rights to General Electric for $40,000.
The web-based Garrett Morgan Clearinghouse—funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and spearheaded by Knox County Schools (Tennessee) and the University of Tennessee Center for Transportation Research (UT)—will provide a consolidated hub of resources, including instructional materials and classroom lesson plans, designed to support, enhance, and promote K-12 STEM and transportation education and outreach nationwide.
The Clearinghouse is a one-stop shop for K-12 teachers, STEM educators, students, parents, and transportation professionals. It features a wide variety of transportation-themed STEM instructional materials and other resources that will be made available to users for download—in most cases, free of charge. The materials were hand-picked and/or created by STEM experts and K-12 educators nationwide.
Dr. Meiko Thompson, project lead of the Clearinghouse, has led an expert team in the ongoing selection and development of the program’s instructional materials and lesson plans. She stated that the no-cost materials were written specifically with educators in mind. Notably, the plans coincide with state and national testing standards for STEM subject skills.
“All the lesson plans will be free, which will be a real benefit for educators. They will have available to them some very good transportation related [STEM] lesson plans that meet their state’s and national standards and that will help their students better understand transportation.”
Dr. Jerry Everett, research director at the UT research center, and a key partner in the Clearinghouse development, stated that he hoped the Clearinghouse would soon become a well-known resource in K- 12 classrooms across the country.
“We hope that whenever someone wants to do a classroom problem-based learning activity or is looking for curriculum, or an afterschool program that has a transportation theme and STEM education elements, they would look to the Garrett Morgan Clearinghouse.”
Everett explained that transportation provides a useful backdrop by which science, technology, engineering, and math concepts can be related to the real world. Prior to the Garrett Morgan Clearinghouse, the Center for Transportation Research and Knox County Schools had already successfully employed the transportation theme in a number of K-12 STEM outreach programs. Similar programs across the nation have also used transportation as a method of engaging students by transforming technical concepts into relatable, real-world material—with positive results.
“One of the themes that we’ve really begun promoting through the Clearinghouse is trying to answer the question ‘When will I ever use that in the real world?’,” Everett said. “I think we’re going to keep using that theme in a lot of the materials that we produce, and try to answer that question with a transportation twist each time that it’s asked.”
For more information on the Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Education Program Clearinghouse visit their website at www.gamttep.com.