Earth/Environmental Science

Enhancing Energy Literacy through Place-based Learning: Using the School Building to Link Energy Use with Earth Systems

This exploratory project will design, pilot, and evaluate a 10-weeek, energy literacy curriculum unit for a program called Energy and Your Environment (EYE). In the EYE curriculum, students will study energy use and transfer in their own school buildings. They will explore how Earth systems supply renewable and nonrenewable energy, and how these energy sources are transformed and transferred from Earth systems to a school building to meet its daily energy requirements.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2009127
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Full Description: 

Student understanding of energy concepts about Earth systems and human-built systems require grappling with current societal issues related to resource use and management, energy sources, climate impacts, and sustainability. These relationships are challenging for students and underdeveloped in many science curriculum frameworks. This exploratory project will design, pilot, and evaluate a 10-weeek, energy literacy curriculum unit for a program called Energy and Your Environment (EYE). In the EYE curriculum, students will study energy use and transfer in their own school buildings. They will explore how Earth systems supply renewable and nonrenewable energy, and how these energy sources are transformed and transferred from Earth systems to a school building to meet its daily energy requirements. Learning about complex ideas in a place that is common to both students and teachers provides a means for deeper understanding and application of energy use and exchange. The research team includes researchers in biology and in architecture with an emphasis on natural resources and the environment. The researchers will work with four middle school science teachers to develop a curriculum unit that requires deep understanding of energy-systems models, but that will also be designed to apply to the school system and community. This is place-based learning aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards to foster energy literacy, modeling of energy use and flow, and systems thinking.

The research questions for this study will ask about students' ability to construct and explain models about energy use and exchange, as well as about teachers' use of the newly developed instructional materials. The research team will collaborate with 4 middle school teachers to design and test the unit in their classrooms. Data collection includes students' drawn models of the energy systems in use in their school building, student and teacher interviews, classroom observations, and teacher questionnaires. Student understanding of the learning goals will be assessed through a learning performance on energy modeling, and an accompanying rubric to score student models and explanations. After an initial implementation of the unit in classrooms, the following summer, researchers and teachers will meet to revise the curriculum materials. Then, teachers new to the curriculum unit will participate in the professional development required to teach the EYE unit. They will introduce the revised unit to their students in the next year, as researchers collect data and evaluate student learning for the revised curriculum materials. Overall, the project intends to include about 600 middle school students.

Building Environmental and Educational Technology Competence and Leadership Among Educators: An Exploration in Virtual Reality Professional Development

This project will bring locally relevant virtual reality (VR) experiences to teachers and students in areas where there is historically low participation of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM. This exploratory project will support the professional growth and development of current middle and high school STEM teachers by providing multiyear summer training and school year support around environmental sciences themed content, implementing VR in the classroom, and development of a support community for the teachers.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010563
Funding Period: 
Mon, 06/15/2020 to Wed, 05/31/2023
Full Description: 

Many of the nation's most vulnerable ecosystems exist near communities with scant training opportunities for teachers and students in K-12 schools. The Louisiana wetlands is one such example. Focusing on these threatened natural environments and their connection to flooding will put science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts in a real-world context that is relatable to students living in these areas while integrating virtual reality technology. This technology will allow students in rural and urban schools lacking resources for field trips to be immersed into simulated field experiences. This exploratory project will support the professional growth and development of current middle and high school STEM teachers by providing multiyear summer training and school year support around three specific areas: (1) environmental sciences themed content; (2) implementing virtual reality (VR) in the classroom, and (3) development of a support community for the teachers. Findings from this project will advance the knowledge of the most effective components in professional development for teachers to incorporate new knowledge into their classrooms. This project will bring locally relevant VR experiences to teachers and students in areas where there is historically low participation of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM. Through new partnerships formed with collaborators, the results of this project will be shared broadly in informal and formal education environments including public outreach events for an increase in public scientific literacy and public engagement.

This project will expand the understanding of the impact that a multi-layered professional development program will have on improving the self-efficacy of teachers in STEM. This project will add to the field's knowledge tied to the overall research question: What are the experiences of secondary STEM teachers in rural and urban schools who participate in a multiyear professional development (PD) program? This project will provide instructional support and PD for two cohorts of ten teachers in southeastern Louisiana. Each summer, teachers will complete a two-week blended learning PD training, and during the academic year, teachers will participate in an action research community including PD meetings and monthly Critical Friends Group meetings. A longitudinal pre-post-post design will be employed to analyze whether the proposed method improves teacher's self-efficacy, instructional practices, integration of technology, and leadership as the teachers will deploy VR training locally to grow the base of teachers integrating this technology into their curriculum. The findings of this project will improve understanding of how innovative place-based technological experiences can be brought into classrooms and shared through public engagement.

Pandemic Learning Loss in U.S. High Schools: A National Examination of Student Experiences

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools across much of the U.S. have been closed since mid-March of 2020 and many students have been attempting to continue their education away from schools. Student experiences across the country are likely to be highly variable depending on a variety of factors at the individual, home, school, district, and state levels. This project will use two, nationally representative, existing databases of high school students to study their experiences in STEM education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2030436
Funding Period: 
Fri, 05/15/2020 to Fri, 04/30/2021
Full Description: 

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools across much of the U.S. have been closed since mid-March of 2020 and many students have been attempting to continue their education away from schools. Student experiences across the country are likely to be highly variable depending on a variety of factors at the individual, home, school, district, and state levels. This project will use two, nationally representative, existing databases of high school students to study their experiences in STEM education during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study intends to ascertain whether students are taking STEM courses in high school, the nature of the changes made to the courses, and their plans for the fall. The researchers will identify the electronic learning platforms in use, and other modifications made to STEM experiences in formal and informal settings. The study is particularly interested in finding patterns of inequities for students in various demographic groups underserved in STEM and who may be most likely to be affected by a hiatus in formal education.

This study will collect data using the AmeriSpeak Teen Panel of approximately 2,000 students aged 13 to 17 and the Infinite Campus Student Information System with a sample of approximately 2.5 million high school students. The data sets allow for relevant comparisons of student experiences prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic and offer unique perspectives with nationally representative samples of U.S. high school students. New data collection will focus on formal and informal STEM learning opportunities, engagement, STEM course taking, the nature and frequency of instruction, interactions with teachers, interest in STEM, and career aspirations. Weighted data will be analyzed using descriptive statistics and within and between district analysis will be conducted to assess group differences. Estimates of between group pandemic learning loss will be provided with attention to demographic factors.

This RAPID award is made by the DRK-12 program in the Division of Research on Learning. The Discovery Research PreK-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics by preK-12 students and teachers, through the research and development of new innovations and approaches. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for the projects.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

 

 

 

 

Place-Based Learning for Elementary Science at Scale (PeBLES2)

To support equitable access to place-based science learning opportunities, Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance in collaboration with BSCS Science Learning, will develop and test a model to support 3rd-5th grade teachers in incorporating locally or culturally relevant place-based phenomena into rigorously tested curricular units that meet the expectations of the NGSS. The project team will develop two units that could be used in any region across the country with built-in opportunities and embedded supports for teachers to purposefully adapt curriculum to include local phenomena.

Award Number: 
2009613
Funding Period: 
Fri, 05/15/2020 to Tue, 04/30/2024
Full Description: 

This project investigates how to design instructional resources and supporting professional learning that value rigor and standardization while at the same time creating experiences that help students understand their worlds by connecting to local phenomena, communities, and cultures. Currently, many instructional materials designed for widespread use do not connect to local phenomena, while units that do incorporate local phenomena are often developed from the ground up by community members, requiring extensive time and resources.  To support equitable access to place-based science learning opportunities, the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance in collaboration with BSCS Science Learning, will develop and test a model to support 3rd-5th grade teachers in incorporating locally or culturally relevant place-based phenomena into rigorously tested units that meet the expectations of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The project team will develop two units and associated professional learning that could be used in any region across the country with built-in opportunities for teachers to purposefully adapt curriculum to include local phenomena.

A design based research approach will be used to: 1) iteratively design, test, and revise, two locally adaptable instructional resource packages for Grades 3-5 science; 2) examine how teachers apply unit resources and professional learning experiences to incorporate local phenomena into the curriculum and their teaching; and 3) examine how the process of curriculum adaptation can support teacher understanding of the science ideas and phenomena within the units, teacher agency and self-efficacy beliefs in science teaching, and student perceptions of relevance and interest in science learning. Participating teachers will range from rural and urban settings in California, Colorado, and Maine. Data sources will include instructional logs, teacher surveys, and student electronic exit tickets from 50 classrooms per unit as well as teacher interviews, classroom observations, and student focus groups from six exemplar case study teachers per unit. Evaluation of the project will focus on monitoring the (1) quality of the research and development components, (2) quality of program implementation to inform program improvement and future implementation, and (3) potential of scaling up the program to other sites and organizations. The design and research from this project will advance the field’s knowledge about how to design instructional materials and professional learning experiences that meet the expectations of the NGSS while also empowering teachers to adapt materials in productive ways, drawing on locally or culturally relevant phenomena.

 

The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models, and tools. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

CAREER: Promoting Equitable and Inclusive STEM Contexts in High School

This project focuses on fostering equitable and inclusive STEM contexts with attention to documenting and reducing adolescents' experiences of harassment, bias, prejudice and stereotyping. This research will contribute to understanding of the current STEM educational climates in high schools and will help to identify factors that promote resilience in the STEM contexts, documenting how K-12 educators can structure their classrooms and schools to foster success of all students in STEM classes.

Award Number: 
1941992
Funding Period: 
Sat, 02/01/2020 to Fri, 01/31/2025
Full Description: 

This project focuses on fostering equitable and inclusive STEM contexts with attention to documenting and reducing adolescents' experiences of harassment, bias, prejudice and stereotyping. An important barrier to persistence in STEM fields for marginalized groups, including women and ethnic minorities, relates to a culture in many STEM organizations, such as academic institutions, that fosters discrimination, harassment and prejudicial treatment of those from underrepresented groups. This research will contribute to understanding of the current STEM educational climates in high schools and will help to identify factors that promote resilience in the STEM contexts, documenting how K-12 educators can structure their classrooms and schools to foster success of all students in STEM classes. Further, this work will explore how to create schools where students stand-up for each other and support each other so that any student who is interested will feel welcome in STEM classes and programs.

This research aims to examine cultures of discrimination and harassment in STEM contexts with attention to: 1) assessing STEM climates in high schools in order to identify the character of discrimination and harassment, 2) understanding how youth think about these instances of bias and discrimination; 3) identifying pathways to resilience for underrepresented youth pursuing STEM interests, and 4) testing an intervention to promote bystander intervention from those who witness discrimination and harassment in STEM contexts. This research will take an intersectional approach recognizing that those who are marginalized by multiple dimensions of their identity may experience STEM contexts differently than those who are marginalized by one dimension of their identity. Because adolescence is a critical developmental period during which youth are forming their attitudes, orientations and lifelong behaviors, this research will attend to issues of bias and discrimination well before individuals enter college STEM classrooms or the STEM workforce: namely, during high school. Further, this work will examine the creation of equitable STEM climates in both college-preparation classes as well as workforce development STEM programs offered though or in partnership with high schools. This research will provide clear evidence to document the current culture of STEM contexts in high schools, using mixed methods, including surveys, qualitative interviews and longitudinal measurement. Further, the project will involve development and implementation of an intervention, which will provide the first test of whether bystander intervention can be fostered in STEM students and will involve training STEM students in key 21st century skills, such as social-cognitive capacities and interpersonal skills, enabling them to speak up and support peers from marginalized backgrounds when they observe discrimination and harassment.

Teaching Science Outdoors: A Next Generation Approach for Advancing Elementary Science Teaching in Urban Communities

This project project is designed to enhance the capacity of elementary teachers in high-poverty urban communities for enacting Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned science approaches using the outdoors as part of their classroom. The goal of the project is to advance elementary teachers' pedagogical practices and determine how this affects cognitive and non-cognitive learning outcomes of their students, particularly those who are traditionally marginalized in science classrooms.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907506
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

This project addresses a long-standing challenge in science education centered on providing meaningful science education opportunities to students living in communities of high poverty and attending under-resourced elementary schools. These students are significantly less likely to receive high-quality science learning opportunities and to be encouraged to engage in (rather than simply learn about) science. This Michigan State University research project is designed to enhance the capacity of elementary teachers in high-poverty urban communities for enacting Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned science approaches using the outdoors as part of their classroom. It builds on and advances prior outdoor education work for the current context of science education that requires elementary teachers to engage students in making sense of phenomena using next generation science and engineering practices. The goal of this project is to advance elementary teachers' pedagogical practices and determine how this affects cognitive and non-cognitive learning outcomes of their students, particularly those who are traditionally marginalized in science classrooms. It also will advance knowledge on ways to bridge informal and formal learning environments. To achieve these goals, the project will develop, enact and study a program that involves a scaffolded series of summer professional development sessions focused on outdoor learning and school year follow-up meetings and classroom-based coaching for elementary teachers and informal educators from two high-need districts.

Design-based research will be utilized to: 1) foster teacher practices and study how these develop over time, 2) work with teachers to measure student outcomes, and 3) determine what aspects of this formal/informal approach are productive, measures of student engagement and student learning artifacts--will be analyzed. The project will serve as a model for developing partnerships between informal science organizations, educators, and K-12 programs. Revised measures and outcomes of teacher practices and student learning; outdoor-focused lesson plans; cases illustrating how elementary teachers develop and enact NGSS-aligned outdoor lessons; a revised informal-formal theoretical model; and information about dissemination of products including facilitation guidelines and coaching approaches will be developed and disseminated.

The School Gardeners' Southwest Desert Almanac: A Conference for Supporting, Sustaining, and Spreading Garden-Based Science Teaching

Focusing on the Southwest Desert ecoregion, this conference addresses the need for research on effective instructional methods that can be used to support students' science learning in school gardens. The conference will lead to the development of an ecoregional model for garden-based science teaching (GBST) that builds on regional ecological and cultural resources to engage teachers and students in richer and more relevant science learning experiences.

Award Number: 
1908886
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/15/2019 to Fri, 07/31/2020
Full Description: 

Garden-based science teaching (GBST) integrates formal and informal learning, provides teaching opportunities in a wide range of science topics (e.g., soil science, ecology, botany), and creates a place for those topics to be locally and culturally relevant. A proliferation of school gardens nationwide reveals a significant increase (42%) in the creation of school gardens between 2013-2015 (USDA, 2015). As students increasingly engage in science learning in school gardens, the demand for high-quality instruction also grows. However, much of the available research on school gardens emphasizes health and nutrition interventions, without also characterizing the instructional practices of science. This conference addresses the need for research on effective instructional methods that can be used to support students' science learning in school gardens. The conference will focus on the Southwest Desert ecoregion. The ecoregion focus is driven by the longstanding challenges of coordinating a national model of GBST across ecoregion differences, by concentrating on states and sites whose problems and opportunities reflect common ecoregion conditions. This conference will lead to development of an ecoregional model for GBST that builds on regional ecological and cultural resources to engage teachers and students in richer and more relevant science learning experiences.

This conference will organize and implement collaborative activities during and after a 2-1/2 day meeting in Arizona. It will involve 35 participants comprised of teachers (grades K-5), teacher educators, educational researchers, and science content specialists who collectively bring experience with science teaching in school gardens, culturally relevant pedagogy, traditional agricultural practices, and science practices. Conference activities will draw upon participatory design research methods to understand how, when, and why educational innovations work in practice. A key product of the conference and post-conference activities will be an ecoregion model of GBST as instantiated by The School Gardeners' Southwest Desert Almanac. The Almanac will be an online resource for information on GBST, collaboratively produced by practitioners and researchers during- and post-conference activity. This website will feature curated resources such as a multi-media set of case studies illustrating GBST instructional practices.

Designing for Science Learning in Schools by Leveraging Participation and the Power of Place through Community and Citizen Science (Collaborative Research: Ballard)

This project responds to these priorities by developing and testing a place-based environmental science research and monitoring program for elementary school students and their teachers.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908915
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Mon, 07/31/2023
Full Description: 

Current priorities in science education include efforts to engage students in scientific reasoning and using the knowledge and practices of science to understand natural phenomena and constructively respond to local and global challenges. This project responds to these priorities by developing and testing a place-based environmental science research and monitoring program for elementary school students and their teachers. Students will investigate locally-relevant phenomena related to forest health, such as fire management and invasive species. The students will collect and analyze data related to resource management issues and share findings with community scientists and stakeholders. The project will develop and test a reproducible and adaptable place-based instructional model for schools, districts, and counties having underserved rural populations.

This early stage design and development project for students and teachers of grades 3-5 addresses two major goals: 1) Design and implement a science education program focused on local forest management issues to promote community-relevant learning and agency, and 2) Conduct design-based research to identify effective approaches to engaging young students in purposeful data collection and interpretation, and informed interaction with local stakeholders. The study includes 15 comprehensive public schools and charter schools in 12 school districts in a rural region having limited access to the formal and informal science learning opportunities typically available in urban centers. Research activities are guided by two research questions: 1) To what extent and in what ways do students participating in a school-based, community-engaged, place-based, environmental-focused program develop environmental science agency? And 2) Which design variations of the three Central Design Features foster the three science learning outcomes for students? The three Central Design Features are: 1) Collecting place-relevant environmental data, 2) Facilitated meaning-making with collected data embedded within larger data sets, and 3) Community-engaged, place-based projects and interactions. A design-based research approach will be used to determine how the planned design variations impact learning. The project will involve three design cycles of two-years each, with adjustments being based on insights gained during each implementation cycle. Pre- and post-program sureveys will be used to track changes in student environmental science agency (ESA), and field observations, semi-structured interviews with students and teachers, and examination of student work and artifacts will be used to gather data used to answer the research questions.

Designing for Science Learning in Schools by Leveraging Participation and the Power of Place through Community and Citizen Science (Collaborative Research: Henson)

This project responds to these priorities by developing and testing a place-based environmental science research and monitoring program for elementary school students and their teachers.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908670
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Mon, 07/31/2023
Full Description: 

Current priorities in science education include efforts to engage students in scientific reasoning and using the knowledge and practices of science to understand natural phenomena and constructively respond to local and global challenges. This project responds to these priorities by developing and testing a place-based environmental science research and monitoring program for elementary school students and their teachers. Students will investigate locally-relevant phenomena related to forest health, such as fire management and invasive species. The students will collect and analyze data related to resource management issues and share findings with community scientists and stakeholders. The project will develop and test a reproducible and adaptable place-based instructional model for schools, districts, and counties having underserved rural populations.

This early stage design and development project for students and teachers of grades 3-5 addresses two major goals: 1) Design and implement a science education program focused on local forest management issues to promote community-relevant learning and agency, and 2) Conduct design-based research to identify effective approaches to engaging young students in purposeful data collection and interpretation, and informed interaction with local stakeholders. The study includes 15 comprehensive public schools and charter schools in 12 school districts in a rural region having limited access to the formal and informal science learning opportunities typically available in urban centers. Research activities are guided by two research questions: 1) To what extent and in what ways do students participating in a school-based, community-engaged, place-based, environmental-focused program develop environmental science agency? And 2) Which design variations of the three Central Design Features foster the three science learning outcomes for students? The three Central Design Features are: 1) Collecting place-relevant environmental data, 2) Facilitated meaning-making with collected data embedded within larger data sets, and 3) Community-engaged, place-based projects and interactions. A design-based research approach will be used to determine how the planned design variations impact learning. The project will involve three design cycles of two-years each, with adjustments being based on insights gained during each implementation cycle. Pre- and post-program sureveys will be used to track changes in student environmental science agency (ESA), and field observations, semi-structured interviews with students and teachers, and examination of student work and artifacts will be used to gather data used to answer the research questions.

Generalized Embodied Modeling to Support Science through Technology Enhanced Play (Collaborative Research: Danish)

The project will develop and research a new Mixed Reality environment (MR), called GEM-STEP, that leverages play and embodiment as resources for integrating computational modeling into the modeling cycle as part of science instruction for elementary students.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908632
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

The project will develop and research a new Mixed Reality environment (MR), called GEM-STEP, that leverages play and embodiment as resources for integrating computational modeling into the modeling cycle as part of science instruction for elementary students. GEM stands for Generalized Embodied Modeling. Through these embodied, play-as-modeling activities, students will learn the core concepts of science, and the conceptual skills of modeling and systematic measurement. MR environments use new sensing technologies to help transform young children's physical actions during pretend play into a set of symbolic representations and parameters in a science simulation. As students physically move around the classroom, the computer will track their motion and interactions with selected objects and translate their physical activity into a shared display. For example, students pretend they are water particles and work together to model different states of matter. The children see their activity projected onto a computer simulation where a model of a water particle is displayed over the video of themselves. As students collectively reflect upon the nature of a water molecule, they refine their understanding of water as ice, a liquid or a gas. The proposed innovation allows the students to program and revise their own mixed reality simulations as part of their modeling cycle. Embodied and computational modeling will help students to reflect on their models in a unique way that will make their models more computationally accurate and enhance their understanding of the underlying concepts.

The project will research how using the body as a component of the modeling cycle differs from and interacts with the articulation of a scientific model through more structured computational means. The project will investigate the benefits of combining embodiment with computational elements in GEM:STEP by studying the range of concepts that students can learn in this manner. Lessons will be developed to address different disciplinary core ideas, such as states of matter, pollination as a complex system, or decomposition, as well as cross-cutting concepts of systems thinking, and energy/matter flow, all of which link directly to upper elementary science curriculum. Project research will gather data to understand what kinds of models students develop, what learning processes are supported using GEM:STEP, and what learning results. The data will include: (1) documenting and analyzing what students modeled and how accurate the models are; (2) recording student activity using audio and voice to code their activity to document learning processes and to look at how different forms of modeling interact with one another to promote learning; and (3) pre-post content measures to assess learning. All of the software that is developed for GEM:STEP will be made available as Open Source projects, allowing other researchers to build upon and extend this work. The results of the research will be disseminated in academic conferences and peer reviewed journals. The motion tracking software is already available on Github, a popular open-source repository. Once developed, the aim is to implement GEM:STEP in a wide range of classroom contexts, supported by a user-friendly interface, teacher guides, and professional development.

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