loading page

Transdisciplinary education to meet Earth system challenges: development of the Egyptian STEM school and teacher education curricula
  • David Smith,
  • Emily Walter,
  • Frederick Nelson
David Smith
Design for STEM

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

Author Profile
Emily Walter
California State University Fresno
Author Profile
Frederick Nelson
California State University Fresno
Author Profile


Following the establishment of the first STEM school in Egypt (in 2011), the Egyptian Ministry of Education and the USAID-funded Egypt’s STEM School Project began joint work creating a public STEM high school model, supported by US STEM education experts, that addresses 11 major Grand Challenges (GCs) identified by Egyptians. In 2018, the Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and US STEM faculty, coordinated by 21PSTEM, began creating 4-year undergraduate and 1-year post-Bachelor programs to prepare teachers for these schools, under the USAID-funded STEM Teacher Education and School Strengthening Activity (STESSA), also based on the GCs. Traditional Earth science alone was not sufficient to prepare students to meet these transdisciplinary GCs. Instead, the STEM high schools, as well as the graduate and undergraduate programs, use a transdisciplinary curriculum, with biology, chemistry, physics, Earth science, and math taught every semester. The content is further integrated every semester in capstone project experiences. These curricula were jointly developed by US and Egyptian STEM content experts who also did teacher training. These STEM schools have been a major success, catapulting Egyptian youth into wins at international STEM competitions and earning them admission to elite universities around the world. As the schools developed, the Ministry of Education and 21PSTEM (which implements STESSA) found that US-Egyptian professional development helped ease teachers’ transition to the integrated curriculum. But a growing number of STEM high schools made a new teacher pipeline imperative. US and Egyptian faculty are developing new 4-year undergraduate programs to prepare teachers in 5 STEM disciplines. These programs echo the high school curriculum and the GCs, but are more explicitly transdisciplinary, beginning with 6 integrated STEM courses in the first two years. Earth science plays a prominent role in these integrated courses and Earth science faculty from the US and Egypt have played a significant role in course development. We will report on the development and progress of the first two of these transdisciplinary courses, and the potential of truly transdisciplinary course work to develop stronger Earth scientists, ready to meet grand challenges in any nation on Earth.