Elementary School

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.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907506
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Project Evaluator: 
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.

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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.

Project Email: 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908915
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Mon, 07/31/2023
Project Evaluator: 
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.

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Human Variance and Assessment for Learning Implications for Diverse Learners of STEM: A National Conference

The conference will attract thought leaders, policy makers, supervisors of practice and scholars of measurement science to be informed of emerging thought and developments and to discuss selected models for the implementation of new ways of generating and utilizing data from education tests.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1939192
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2019 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

The conference purpose is to stimulate a national conversation concerning the relationships between assessment, teaching and learning that include scholarly research and development of tests; members of city and state boards of education; officials from states and major school systems; policymakers; and representatives of teachers' associations and parents' associations. This conference aims to attract these important professionals has important co-sponsors like the Urban Institute. This national conference flows from the work of the Gordon Commission on the Future of Assessment for Education that addressed the advancement of achievement in STEM disciplines (PreK-12) for students who are underrepresented among high achieving students. This issue of advancement of underrepresented high achieving students has received little concentrated effort and a conference would help in providing greater understanding of this special concern, which includes a student in poverty in complexed family structures.

The conference will attract thought leaders, policy makers, supervisors of practice and scholars of measurement science to be informed of emerging thought and developments and to discuss selected models for the implementation of new ways of generating and utilizing data from education tests. The conference will stimulate national conversation and ultimately a market that demands educational assessments that inform and improve teaching and learning transactions. The conference will be organized around four conceptual and theoretical papers that focus on the knowledge base upon which six concurrent workshops will be based. The four papers are: (1) Human Diversity and Assessment; (2) The Limits of Test Bias and Its Corrections; (3) Towards an Assessment Science Capable of Informing and Improving Learning; and  (4) Assessment in the Service of Learning. The workshops will focus on models of pedagogical practice that show promise for informing and improving teaching and learning processes and their outcomes. These issues will be discussed by 11-15 expert presenters who understand student learning and the types of information gleaned from different types of assessments. The attention to URMs and their needs and contexts are prioritized in discussions surrounding measurement science and the integration of assessment. Several important issues that address understanding of student learning, and the relationship between the varieties of information concerning students that can be accessed through assessments are: (1) The importance of the broader and more productive use of educational testing to improve the learning of STEM subject matter and values; (2) Curriculum embedded assessment and the reduction in disparities in achievement by STEM learners from diverse social divisions; (3) Innovative procedures and programs for the use of data concerning learners and teaching and learning transactions in the teaching and learning of STEM with learners who are underrepresented among high achieving STEM learners.

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.

Advancing Coherent and Equitable Systems of Science Education

This project will examine how partnerships among state science leaders, education researchers and education practitioners cultivate vertical coherence and equity in state science education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1920249
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Mon, 07/31/2023
Full Description: 

This project will examine how partnerships among state science leaders, education researchers and education practitioners cultivate vertical coherence and equity in state science education. This is an important study because in most states, the student population is becoming more diverse, and states need help in finding ways to better serve schools and districts within their jurisdictions. Through this effort, state science leaders will participate in a networked improvement community model organized to develop and test state-level strategies. Specifically, the focus will be on the adaptation of instructional materials and formative assessment as linked policy strategies for aligning curriculum, instruction, and assessment and for relating instruction to the interests and histories of local communities. State science leaders and researchers will investigate how and under what conditions certain strategies support the emergence of coherent and equitable state systems of science education in which all students have opportunities to meet challenging new science standards. The project will build knowledge and theory about the conditions under which a network of state teams can promote coherent guidance for culturally-based instruction in local districts and schools. Together the partners will collaborate to diagnose current challenges to promoting coherence and equity and then develop knowledge and resources about conditions that promote coherence and equity by testing and studying strategies for cultivating it.

An iterative design-based research approach will be used to build foundational knowledge for the equitable implementation of the vision of science and engineering learning that integrates disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts working from a cultural perspective on learning. A multiple-case study will be used to collect data about the impact of the networked improvement community model on leadership development to effectively improve state efforts. Surveys and interviews will be used to gather information on co-designing efforts, use and adaptation of resources, and knowledge gained by state science leaders. Data will also be collected on political conditions and infrastructures of teamwork as potential facilitators and barriers to the development of strategic knowledge leadership. Analyses of data will identify patterns or configurations of conditions associated with growth in science leaders' strategic knowledge leadership related to equity. This technique will generate evidence-based claims for how and when supports and barriers matter for growth in strategic knowledge leadership for equity.

Ed+gineering: An Interdisciplinary Partnership Integrating Engineering into Elementary Teacher Preparation Programs

In this project, over 500 elementary education majors will team with engineering majors to teach engineering design to over 1,600 students from underrepresented groups. These standards-based lessons will emphasize student questioning, constructive student-to-student interactions, and engineering design processes, and they will be tailored to build from students' interests and strengths.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908743
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2019 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Full Description: 

Engineering education, with its emphasis on developing creative solutions to relevant problems, is a promising approach to increasing elementary students' interest in scientific fields. Despite its potential, engineering education is often absent from elementary classes because many teachers feel underprepared to integrate it into their instruction. This project addresses this issue through an innovative approach to undergraduate elementary education programs. In this approach, called Ed+gineering, undergraduate elementary education majors team with undergraduate engineering majors to develop and teach engineering lessons to elementary students in out-of-school settings. In this project, over 500 elementary education majors will team with engineering majors to teach engineering design to over 1,600 students from underrepresented groups. These standards-based lessons will emphasize student questioning, constructive student-to-student interactions, and engineering design processes, and they will be tailored to build from students' interests and strengths. The research team will study whether Ed+gineering is correlated with positive outcomes for the elementary education majors. They will also study whether and how the elementary education majors subsequently provide engineering instruction during their first year of licensed teaching. This project will advance knowledge by resulting in a model for teacher education that has the potential to improve future elementary teachers' confidence and ability to teach engineering. In turn, more elementary students may have opportunities to experience engineering as they discover how innovative applications of science can be used to solve problems in the world around them.

Researchers at Old Dominion University will study whether a teacher preparation model is associated with positive outcomes for pre-service teachers while they are undergraduates and in their first year as professional teachers. Undergraduate elementary education majors and undergraduate engineering majors will work in interdisciplinary teams, comprised of four to six people, in up to three mandatory collegiate courses in their respective disciplinary programs. Each semester, these interdisciplinary teams will develop and teach a culturally responsive, engineering-based lesson with accompanying student materials during a field trip or after-school program attended by underrepresented students in fourth, fifth, or sixth grade. Using a quasi-experimental design with treatment and matched comparison groups, researchers will identify whether the teacher preparation model is associated with increased knowledge of engineering, beliefs about engineering integration, self-efficacy for engineering integration, and intention to integrate engineering, as determined by existing validated instruments as well as by new instruments that will be adapted and validated by the research team. Additionally, the researchers will follow program participants using surveys, interviews, and classroom observations to determine whether and how they provide engineering instruction during their first year as licensed teachers. Constant comparative analyses of these data will indicate barriers and enablers to engineering instruction among beginning teachers who participated in the Ed+gineering program. This project will result in an empirically-based model of teacher preparation, a predictive statistical model of engineering integration, field-tested engineering lesson plans, and validated instruments that will be disseminated widely to stakeholders.

Science Coordinators Advancing a Framework for Outstanding Leadership Development

This project will develop and test a professional development program designed for school district science coordinators by examining impacts of participating coordinators on science teachers and their students.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908431
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Mon, 07/31/2023
Full Description: 

Current priorities in formal science education include building strong professional learning communities that foster ongoing professional growth among teachers, teacher leaders, and school administrators. This project responds to these priorities by developing and testing a professional development program designed for school district science coordinators. Though these science coordinators typically have some degree of responsibility for supporting science teachers in their school districts, most individuals appointed to these leadership positions have little or no formal preparation for the role. The range of duties assigned to science coordinators varies greatly from district to district, but duties typically include mentoring teachers, selecting curriculum materials, overseeing science supplies and classroom safety, and advocating for science program improvements. The professional development model being designed and developed by this project will be tested by examining impacts of participating science coordinators on science teachers and their students.

The goal of this four-year exploratory study is to determine if a specialized professional development program for district science coordinators can facilitate their growth as instructional leaders and the instructional practices of science teachers of their school districts. More specifically, the project will pursue answers to two research questions: 1) How, if at all, does the professional development model impact the knowledge, practices, and work of the science coordinators? and 2) How, if at all, do participating science coordinators impact the practices of science teachers who are implementing the Next Generation Science Standards? A design-based research approach will be employed to develop a two-year professional development model having 80 hours of programming during the first year, and 30 hours during the second year. Programming will include a blend of face-to-face and online meetings and modules. The mixed-methods research plan will compare teaching and learning outcomes within three groups: 1) The treatment groups consisting of science coordinators who participated in the professional development program, and the science teachers with whom they work, 2) A comparison group of science coordinators who did not participate in the professional development program and the teachers with whom they work, and 3) A comparison group consisting of science teachers who do not have direct access to a science coordinator. Quantitative data will be gathered through use of instruments that measure how science coordinators develop their knowledge and practices, and how they modify their perspectives as leaders. Observations of the classroom practices of teachers will also be documented. The qualitative research component will include interviews, examination of artifacts, and focus groups.

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.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908632
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Project Evaluator: 
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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Generalized Embodied Modeling to Support Science through Technology Enhanced Play (Collaborative Research: Enyedy)

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: 
1908791
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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