Earth/Environmental Science

Developing an Online Game to Teach Middle School Students Science Research Practices in the Life Sciences Collaborative Research: Metcalf)

This project will develop and research AquaLab 9, an online video game to engage middle school students in learning science research practices in life sciences content. By engaging in science research practices, students will develop intellectual skills that link directly to many state academic standards and are important for developing STEM literacy and pursuing STEM career pathways.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907398
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

The project will develop and research AquaLab 9, an online video game to engage middle school students in learning science research practices in life sciences content. By engaging in science research practices, students will develop intellectual skills that link directly to many state academic standards and are important for developing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) literacy and pursuing STEM career pathways. Learners will take on the role of a scientist working at an ocean-floor research station, cut off from the surface due to a catastrophe. They must identify problems, design experiments, create models, and argue from evidence to lead the station to survival. Learners will be challenged with highly relevant, contemporary issues such as waste management, energy use/production/storage, and ecological sustainability in the setting of a fantastical story. Designed for Grades 5-8, the game will be playable in 30-minute segments and will work on Chromebooks and tablet computers. The game will involve 40 educators in a yearlong fellowship where they will become co-designers, steer the project to serve the diverse students they represent, learn about games in education, facilitate playtests in their classrooms, and report their experiences to peers. The resulting game, in English and Spanish, will be utilized by at least 162,000 students by the end of the project and hundreds of thousands more after the project is completed. The project will broaden access through digital distribution and minimal technology requirements, which will create a low-cost opportunity for students to engage in science practices, even in schools where time, equipment, or expertise are not available.

Learning progressions are the steps that students go through when they are learning about a topic. The project will research how learning progressions can provide a framework for educational game design. These progressions will be empirically derived from large audience game play data. The game can thus be designed to create personalized interventions for students to improve learning outcomes. Project research will use an approach called stealth assessment, which analyzes data from students' game behavior without requiring a disruption or intervention in the game activities. This project will use this approach for developing empirically validated understandings of how different students develop their science practices. Based on this research, the game will be revised to improve student learning by providing individualized feedback to each student.

Developing an Online Game to Teach Middle School Students Science Research Practices in the Life Sciences (Collaborative Research: Baker)

This project will develop and research AquaLab 9, an online video game to engage middle school students in learning science research practices in life sciences content. By engaging in science research practices, students will develop intellectual skills that link directly to many state academic standards and are important for developing STEM literacy and pursuing STEM career pathways.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907437
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

The project will develop and research AquaLab 9, an online video game to engage middle school students in learning science research practices in life sciences content. By engaging in science research practices, students will develop intellectual skills that link directly to many state academic standards and are important for developing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) literacy and pursuing STEM career pathways. Learners will take on the role of a scientist working at an ocean-floor research station, cut off from the surface due to a catastrophe. They must identify problems, design experiments, create models, and argue from evidence to lead the station to survival. Learners will be challenged with highly relevant, contemporary issues such as waste management, energy use/production/storage, and ecological sustainability in the setting of a fantastical story. Designed for Grades 5-8, the game will be playable in 30-minute segments and will work on Chromebooks and tablet computers. The game will involve 40 educators in a yearlong fellowship where they will become co-designers, steer the project to serve the diverse students they represent, learn about games in education, facilitate playtests in their classrooms, and report their experiences to peers. The resulting game, in English and Spanish, will be utilized by at least 162,000 students by the end of the project and hundreds of thousands more after the project is completed. The project will broaden access through digital distribution and minimal technology requirements, which will create a low-cost opportunity for students to engage in science practices, even in schools where time, equipment, or expertise are not available.

Learning progressions are the steps that students go through when they are learning about a topic. The project will research how learning progressions can provide a framework for educational game design. These progressions will be empirically derived from large audience game play data. The game can thus be designed to create personalized interventions for students to improve learning outcomes. Project research will use an approach called stealth assessment, which analyzes data from students' game behavior without requiring a disruption or intervention in the game activities. This project will use this approach for developing empirically validated understandings of how different students develop their science practices. Based on this research, the game will be revised to improve student learning by providing individualized feedback to each student.

Developing an Online Game to Teach Middle School Students Science Research Practices in the Life Sciences (Collaborative Research: Gagnon)

This project will develop and research AquaLab 9, an online video game to engage middle school students in learning science research practices in life sciences content. By engaging in science research practices, students will develop intellectual skills that link directly to many state academic standards and are important for developing STEM literacy and pursuing STEM career pathways.

Award Number: 
1907384
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

The project will develop and research AquaLab 9, an online video game to engage middle school students in learning science research practices in life sciences content. By engaging in science research practices, students will develop intellectual skills that link directly to many state academic standards and are important for developing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) literacy and pursuing STEM career pathways. Learners will take on the role of a scientist working at an ocean-floor research station, cut off from the surface due to a catastrophe. They must identify problems, design experiments, create models, and argue from evidence to lead the station to survival. Learners will be challenged with highly relevant, contemporary issues such as waste management, energy use/production/storage, and ecological sustainability in the setting of a fantastical story. Designed for Grades 5-8, the game will be playable in 30-minute segments and will work on Chromebooks and tablet computers. The game will involve 40 educators in a yearlong fellowship where they will become co-designers, steer the project to serve the diverse students they represent, learn about games in education, facilitate playtests in their classrooms, and report their experiences to peers. The resulting game, in English and Spanish, will be utilized by at least 162,000 students by the end of the project and hundreds of thousands more after the project is completed. The project will broaden access through digital distribution and minimal technology requirements, which will create a low-cost opportunity for students to engage in science practices, even in schools where time, equipment, or expertise are not available.

Learning progressions are the steps that students go through when they are learning about a topic. The project will research how learning progressions can provide a framework for educational game design. These progressions will be empirically derived from large audience game play data. The game can thus be designed to create personalized interventions for students to improve learning outcomes. Project research will use an approach called stealth assessment, which analyzes data from students' game behavior without requiring a disruption or intervention in the game activities. This project will use this approach for developing empirically validated understandings of how different students develop their science practices. Based on this research, the game will be revised to improve student learning by providing individualized feedback to each student.

Environmental Innovation Challenges: Teaching and Learning Science Practices in the Context of Complex Earth Systems

This project will engage teams of students and teachers of grades 7-12 in four competitive Challenges to design innovative strategies for carbon mitigation in areas such as transportation, agriculture or energy use. The project expands the typical boundaries of schools by enabling teams of students in multiple locations to collaborate in model-based reasoning through online discussion forums, using social media, and crowdsourcing ideas to construct possible solutions to environmental challenges. Project research will examine the impacts of the project on student learning and engagement.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908117
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 engaging teams of students and teachers of grades 7-12 in four competitive Challenges to design innovative strategies for carbon mitigation in areas such as transportation, agriculture or energy use. The project expands the typical boundaries of schools by enabling teams of students in multiple locations to collaborate in model-based reasoning through online discussion forums, using social media, and crowdsourcing ideas to construct possible solutions to environmental challenges. Project research will examine the impacts of the project on student learning and engagement.

This early stage Design and Development study is guided by the hypothesis that competitive challenges supported by social media and crowdsourcing will engage a diverse array of students in sustained and meaningful scientific inquiry. Over a period of four years, the project will design and refine four Challenges that will engage approximately 1,000 students of ages 13-17. Project research is guided by three overarching questions related to the design of the Challenges, the influence of school contextual factors, and student learning and self-efficacy. The questions are: (1) How do features of the challenge environment support the work of teams, and the participation of students from communities historically underserved in STEM? (2) What structures within the school ecosystem support or raise obstacles to team work? And (3) Does participation in a Challenge result in the intended student outcomes. Intended outcomes include: a) Learning of basic concepts related to the science of the project focus; b) Engagement in learning disciplinary core ideas, cross-cutting concepts and science and engineering practices; c) Persistence in completing a Challenge; and d) self-efficacy in STEM. Students and their teachers will cross disciplinary boundaries as they choose concepts from chemistry, engineering, mathematics, biology, and social science to support their innovations.Teachers, students, staff members and advisors will comment and provide quidance to the teams on a range of issues through crowdsourcing. Design research will be used to examine how features of the Challenge environment supports the work of teachers and teams, and implementation research will focus on participant learning at the individual and team levels. The project will engage at least 25 teams of 3-4 students each, and researchers will track team activity during all phases of the Challenge process. A mixture of qualitative and quantitative analyses will be used to examine outcomes, and data for girls and others from underserved populations will be disaggregated for separate analyses.

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CAREER: Expanding Latinxs' Opportunities to Develop Complex Thinking in Secondary Science Classrooms through a Research-Practice Partnership

This project will address the need to educate teachers and students to engage in asking questions, collecting and interpreting data, making claims, and constructing explanations about real-world problems that matter to them. The study will explore ways to enhance youths' learning experiences in secondary school classrooms (grades 6-12) by building a sustainable partnership between researchers and practitioners.

Award Number: 
1846227
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Sun, 06/30/2024
Full Description: 

This project will address the need to educate teachers and students to engage in asking questions, collecting and interpreting data, making claims, and constructing explanations about real-world problems that matter to them. Science educators generally agree that science classrooms should provide opportunities for students to advance their thinking by engaging in critical conversations with each other as capable sense-makers. Despite decades of reform efforts and the use of experiential activities in science instruction, research indicates that classroom learning for students remains largely procedural, undemanding, and disconnected from the development of substantive scientific ideas. Furthermore, access to high-quality science instruction that promotes such complex thinking is scarce for students with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The project goals will be: (1) To design a year-long teacher professional development program; and (2) To study the extent to which the professional development model improves teachers' capacity to plan and implement inclusive science curricula.

This study will explore ways to enhance youths' learning experiences in secondary school classrooms (grades 6-12) by building a sustainable partnership between researchers and practitioners. The work will build on a previous similar activity with one local high school; plans are to expand the existing study to an entire school district over five years. The proposed work will be conducted in three phases. During Phase I, the study will develop a conceptual framework focused on inclusive science curricula, and implement the new teacher professional development program in 3 high schools with 15 science teachers. Phase II will expand to 6 middle schools in the school district with 24 teachers aimed at creating a continuous and sustainable research-practice partnership approach at the district. Phase III will focus on data analysis, assessment of partnership activities, dissemination, and planning a research agenda for the immediate future. The study will address three research questions: (1) Whether and to what extent does participating teachers' capacity of planning and implementing the curriculum improve over time; (2) How and why do teachers show differential progress individually and collectively?; and (3) What opportunities and constraints within schools and the school district shape teachers' development of their capacity to design and implement curricula? To address the research questions, the project will gather information about the quality of planned and implemented curriculum using both qualitative and quantitative data. Main project's outcomes will be: (1) a framework that guides teachers' engagement in planning and implementing inclusive science curricula; and (2) increased knowledge base on teacher learning. An advisory board will oversee the work in progress. An external evaluator will provide formative and summative feedback.

Supporting Teachers in Responsive Instruction for Developing Expertise in Science (Collaborative Research: Linn)

This project takes advantage of advanced technologies to support science teachers to rapidly respond to diverse student ideas in their classrooms. Students will use web-based curriculum units to engage with models, simulations, and virtual experiments to write multiple explanations for standards-based science topics. The project will also design planning tools for teachers that will make suggestions relevant research-proven instructional strategies based on the real-time analysis of student responses.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813713
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

Many teachers want to adapt their instruction to meet student learning needs, yet lack the time to regularly assess and analyze students' developing understandings. The Supporting Teachers in Responsive Instruction for Developing Expertise in Science (STRIDES) project takes advantage of advanced technologies to support science teachers to rapidly respond to diverse student ideas in their classrooms. In this project students will use web-based curriculum units to engage with models, simulations, and virtual experiments to write multiple explanations for standards-based science topics. Advanced technologies (including natural language processing) will be used to assess students' written responses and summaries their science understanding in real-time. The project will also design planning tools for teachers that will make suggestions relevant research-proven instructional strategies based on the real-time analysis of student responses. Research will examine how teachers make use of the feedback and suggestions to customize their instruction. Further we will study how these instructional changes help students develop coherent understanding of complex science topics and ability to make sense of models and graphs. The findings will be used to refine the tools that analyze the student essays and generate the summaries; improve the research-based instructional suggestions in the planning tool; and strengthen the online interface for teachers. The tools will be incorporated into open-source, freely available online curriculum units. STRIDES will directly benefit up to 30 teachers and 24,000 students from diverse school settings over four years.

Leveraging advances in natural language processing methods, the project will analyze student written explanations to provide fine-grained summaries to teachers about strengths and weaknesses in student work. Based on the linguistic analysis and logs of student navigation, the project will then provide instructional customizations based on learning science research, and study how teachers use them to improve student progress. Researchers will annually conduct at least 10 design or comparison studies, each involving up to 6 teachers and 300-600 students per year. Insights from this research will be captured in automated scoring algorithms, empirically tested and refined customization activities, and data logging techniques that can be used by other research and curriculum design programs to enable teacher customization.

LabVenture - Revealing Systemic Impacts of a 12-Year Statewide Science Field Trip Program

This project will examine the impact of a 12-year statewide science field trip program called LabVenture, a hands-on program in discovery and inquiry that brings middle school students and teachers across the state of Maine to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) to become fully immersed in explorations into the complexities of local marine science ecosystems.

Award Number: 
1811452
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Full Description: 

This research in service to practice project will examine the impact of a 12-year statewide science field trip program called LabVenture. This hands-on program in discovery and inquiry brings middle school students and teachers across the state of Maine to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) in Portland, Maine to become fully immersed in explorations into the complexities of local marine science ecosystems. These intensive field trip experiences are led by informal educators and facilitated entirely within informal contexts at GMRI. Approximately 70% of all fifth and sixth grade students in Maine participate in the program each year and more than 120,000 students have attended since the program's inception in 2005. Unfortunately, little is known to date on how the program has influenced practice and learning ecosystems within formal, informal, and community contexts. As such, this research in service to practice project will employ an innovative research approach to understand and advance knowledge on the short and long-term impacts of the program within different contexts. If proven effective, the LabVenture program will elucidate the potential benefits of a large-scale field trip program implemented systemically across a community over time and serve as a reputable model for statewide adoption of similar programs seeking innovative strategies to connect formal and informal science learning to achieve notable positive shifts in their local, statewide, or regional STEM learning ecosystems.

Over the four-year project duration, the project will reach all 16 counties in the State of Maine. The research design includes a multi-step, multi-method approach to gain insight on the primary research questions. The initial research will focus on extant data and retrospective data sources codified over the 12-year history of the program. The research will then be expanded to garner prospective data on current participating students, teachers, and informal educators. Finally, a community study will be conducted to understand the potential broader impacts of the program. Each phase of the research will consider the following overarching research questions are: (1) How do formal and informal practitioners perceive the value and purposes of the field trip program and field trip experiences more broadly (field trip ontology)? (2) To what degree do short-term field trip experiences in informal contexts effect cognitive and affective outcomes for students? (3) How are community characteristics (e.g., population, distance from GMRI, proximity to the coast) related to ongoing engagement with the field trip program? (4) What are aspects of the ongoing field trip program that might embed it as an integral element of community culture (e.g., community awareness of a shared social experience)? (5) To what degree does a field trip experience that is shared by schools across a state lead to a traceable change that can be measured for those who participated and across the broader community? and (6) In what ways, if at all, can a field trip experience that occurs in informal contexts have an influence on the larger learning ecosystem (e.g., the Maine education system)? Each phase of the research will be led by a team of researchers with the requisite expertise in the methodologies and contexts required to carry out that particular aspect of the research (i.e., retrospective study, prospective study, community study). In addition, evaluation and practitioner panels of experts will provide expertise and guidance on the research, evaluation, and project implementation. The project will culminate with a practitioner convening, to share project findings more broadly with formal and informal practitioners, and promote transfer from research to practice. Additional dissemination strategies include conferences, network meetings, and peer-reviewed publications.

GeoHazard: Modeling Natural Hazards and Assessing Risks

This project will develop and test a new instructional approach that integrates a data analysis tool with Earth systems models in a suite of online curriculum modules for middle and high school Earth science students. The modules will facilitate development of rich conceptual understandings related to the system science of natural hazards and their impacts.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1812362
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

As human populations grow and spread into areas where extreme natural events impact lives, there is increasing need for innovative Earth science curriculum materials that help students interpret data and and understand the factors and risks associated with natural hazards. Studying the processes underlying these naturally occurring events and the relationships between humans and their environments would enrich the standard Earth science curriculum by providing students with valuable insights about the potential impacts of extreme natural events. This project will respond to that need by developing and testing a new instructional approach that integrates a data analysis tool with Earth systems models in a suite of online curriculum modules for middle and high school Earth science students. Each module will be designed as a sequence of activities lasting approximately 7-10 class periods. These will be stand-alone modules so each teacher can implement just one module or several modules. The modules will facilitate development of rich conceptual understandings related to the system science of natural hazards and their impacts. Students will develop scientific arguments that include risk assessment based on their understanding of real-world data and the particular Earth system being studied. The project will develop a set of computational models designed specifically to explore geoscience systems responsible for natural hazards. An open-source data analysis tool will also be modified for students to create and analyze visualizations of the magnitude, frequency, and distribution of real-world hazards and the impact of those hazards on people. Students will compare data generated from the Earth systems models with real-world data in order to develop an understanding of the cause and progression of natural hazards, as well as to make predictions and evaluate future risks.

The four-year, early stage design and development project will be conducted in two phases. In Phase 1, design-based research will be used to iteratively design and test Earth systems models. A team of five lead teachers will field test modules and provide focus group feedback during the development phase of the curricula. These lead teachers will provide input into the design and development of the tools, the organization and structure of the curriculum, and provide suggestions about classroom implementation to support the development of teacher support materials. After the models are developed, four curriculum modules related to hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and wildfires will be developed, tested, and revised. In Phase 2, a group of 30 teachers will participate in implementation studies that will test usability of the modules across students from diverse backgrounds and feasibility of implementation across a range of classroom settings. Research will focus on understanding how to support student analysis of real-world datasets in order to improve their conceptual understanding of complex Earth systems associated with natural hazards. The project will also examine the role of uncertainty when students make scientific arguments that include predictions about the behaviors of complex systems and the uncertainties related to risk assessment. The project aims to clarify student views of uncertainty and how teachers can better support student understanding of the inherently uncertain nature of systems, models, and natural hazards, while understanding that models can be used to reduce impact. Questions guiding project research include: (1) How do students use flexible data visualizations to make sense of data and build and refine conceptual models about natural hazards? (2) How do students incorporate data from models and the real world in formulating scientific arguments; how do students use scientific uncertainty to assess risks based on their understanding of a natural hazard system; and how do students quantify and explain risks to humans and compare different sources of risks? And (3) Do GeoHazard curriculum modules help students make gains in risk-infused scientific argumentation practice and conceptual understanding underlying natural hazards? To what extent, for whom, and under what conditions is the GeoHazard curriculum useful in developing risk-infused scientific argumentation practice and conceptual understanding?

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Teaching in Rural Areas Using Cultural Knowledge Systems

This project will collaborate with Indigenous communities to create educational resources serving Inupiaq middle school students and their teachers. The Cultural Connections Process Model (CCPM) will formalize, implement, and test a process model for community-engaged educational resource development for Indigenous populations. The project will contribute to a greater understanding of effective natural science teaching and science career recruitment of minority students.

Award Number: 
1812888
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

The Cultural Connections Process Model (CCPM) will formalize, implement, and test a process model for community-engaged educational resource development for Indigenous populations. The project will collaborate with Indigenous communities to create educational resources serving Inupiaq middle school students and their teachers. Research activities take place in Northwest Alaska. Senior personnel will travel to rural communities to collaborate with and support participants. The visits demonstrate University of Alaska Fairbanks's commitment to support pathways toward STEM careers, community engagement in research, science teacher recruitment and preparation, and STEM career awareness for Indigenous and rural pre-college students. Pre-service teachers who access to the resources and findings from this project will be better prepared to teach STEM to Native students and other minorities and may be more willing to continue careers as science educators teaching in settings with Indigenous students. The project will contribute to a greater understanding of effective natural science teaching and science career recruitment of minority students. The project's participants and the pre-college students they teach will be part of the pipeline into science careers for underrepresented Native students in Arctic communities. The project will build on partnerships outside of Alaska serving other Indigenous populations and will expand outreach associated with NSF's polar science investments.

CCPM will build on cultural knowledge systems and NSF polar research investments to address science themes relevant to Inupiat people, who have inhabited the region for thousands of years. An Inupiaq scholar will conduct project research and guide collaboration between Indigenous participants and science researchers using the Inupiaq research methodology known as Katimarugut (meaning "we are meeting"). The project research and development will engage 450 students in grades 6-8 and serves 450 students (92% Indigenous) and 11 teachers in the remote Arctic. There are two broad research hypotheses. The first is that the project will build knowledge concerning STEM research practices by accessing STEM understandings and methodologies embedded in Indigenous knowledge systems; engaging Indigenous communities in project development of curricular resources; and bringing Arctic science research aligned with Indigenous priorities into underserved classrooms. The second is that classroom implementation of resources developed using the CCPM will improve student attitudes toward and engagement with STEM and increase their understandings of place-based science concepts. Findings from development and testing will form the basis for further development, broader implementation and deeper research to inform policy and practice on STEM education for underrepresented minorities and on rural education.

Promoting Engineering Problem Framing Skill-Development in High School Science and Engineering Courses

This project will develop curricular activities and assessment guidance for K-12 science and engineering educators who seek to incorporate engineering design content into their biology, chemistry, and physics classes.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1812823
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2018 to Sat, 07/31/2021
Full Description: 

This collaborative project involving Ohio Northern University, Ohio State University, and Olathe Northwest High School will develop curricular activities and assessment guidance for K-12 science and engineering educators who seek to incorporate engineering design content into their biology, chemistry, and physics classes. This work is important because students' limited exposure to engineering activities can negatively impact their decisions to enroll in STEM courses and to pursue engineering careers. Further, many states are adopting or considering adopting the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a set of classroom standards which integrate engineering content into traditional science disciplines. While high school teachers under these standards are expected to incorporate the cross-cutting engineering content into their courses, they generally receive little high-quality support for doing so. If successful, the project could provide a powerful model of how to support busy and resource-constrained STEM teachers, and create broader student interest in STEM careers.

Drawing from best practices on instructional design, the project's main objectives are to: (1) design, field-test, and evaluate the impact of 12 NGSS-aligned, engineering problem-framing design activities on students enrolled in grades 9-12 science courses and (2) design and conduct high-quality, sustained professional development that fosters participating high school science teachers' ability to deploy the NGSS concepts-linked activities. Data sources include student design artifacts, video of classroom instruction, and surveys assessing student and teacher attitudes toward engineering, student design self-efficacy and teacher self-efficacy for teaching engineering content. These data will be analyzed to determine what teachers learned from the professional development activities, how those activities informed their teaching and in turn, how students' engagement with the engineering activities relates to their engineering design skills and attitudes. In terms of intellectual merit, the project aims to develop a learning progression of students' engineering design problem-framing skills by characterizing any observed change in students' design work and attitudes over time.

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