Earth/Environmental Science

Promoting Scientific Explorers Among Students with Learning Disabilities: The Design and Testing of a Grade 2 Science Program Focused on Earth's Systems

The purpose of this project is to design and empirically evaluate a second grade science program, Scientific Explorers, aimed at promoting an early foundation for learning science among all students, including students at risk for or with learning disabilities in reading and mathematics.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720958
Funding Period: 
Thu, 06/01/2017 to Mon, 05/31/2021
Full Description: 

A robust understanding of core science concepts and practices is necessary for obtaining jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Despite these occupational and practical affordances, few effective instructional tools exist for the elementary science classroom. Moreover, early elementary school teachers have limited materials at their disposal to promote a rich knowledge of science among the full range of learners. The purpose of this project is to address this need by designing and empirically evaluating a second grade science program, Scientific Explorers, aimed at promoting an early foundation for learning science among all students, including students at risk for or with learning disabilities in reading and mathematics. Scientific Explorers will be designed to improve students' knowledge and understanding of core science concepts. Recognizing the important role of early literacy and mathematics in science learning and teaching, this project will integrate core disciplinary ideas with critical mathematics and literacy standards. To support students as they engage in scientific tasks associated with Earth's Systems, this project will engineer the Scientific Explorers program around a guided inquiry framework. Another aim of this project is to develop and empirically validate a science assessment that measures students' knowledge and application of core science concepts and practices related to Earth's Systems.

Employing a mixed-method approach, this project will investigate the feasibility and efficacy of the Scientific Explorers program. Additional research activities will include establishing the reliability and validity of a second grade science assessment. Approximately 40 second grade classrooms from two different geographical regions will participate in the project. Using multilevel modeling and item response theory techniques, this project will address five primary research questions: (1) To what extent can teachers feasibly implement the Scientific Explorers program in authentic education settings? (2) What is the impact of Scientific Explorers on the science achievement of students in participating classrooms? (3) Do early literacy skills at the beginning of second grade predict differential response to the Scientific Explorers program? (4) Does responsiveness to the Scientific Explorers program differ as a function of reading disability, mathematics disability, or a learning disability in reading and mathematics (comorbid LD)?, and (5) To what extent does the early science achievement measure demonstrate technical adequacy (reliability and validity)?

Culturally Responsive Indigenous Science: Connecting Land, Language, and Culture

This Culturally Responsive Indigenous Science project seeks to advance this knowledge base through research and by catalyzing new approaches to Indigenous science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (ISTEM) learning. Using an ISTEM focused model, the project will develop, test, and implement a culturally responsive land-based curriculum that integrates Western science, multimodal technologies and digital tools, and Native American tribal knowledge, cultures and languages to investigate and address local environmental science and sustainability concerns.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720931
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

The intersection between Indigenous and Western science continues to be of great importance to K-12 science education, particularly with regards to broadening participation in STEM. With over five hundred federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States, there is much to learn and understand. This Culturally Responsive Indigenous Science project seeks to advance this knowledge base through research and by catalyzing new approaches to Indigenous science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (ISTEM) learning. Using an ISTEM focused model, the project will develop, test, and implement a culturally responsive land-based curriculum that integrates Western science, multimodal technologies and digital tools, and Native American tribal knowledge, cultures and languages to investigate and address local environmental science and sustainability concerns. While Indigenous STEM teaching and learning as constructs have existed for many years, the rigorous research design and extensive integration of multimodal technologies as platforms for scientific inquiry, data management, knowledge dissemination and curation are innovative and timely. Few, if any, Design and Development projects in the current DRK-12 portfolio explore similar work. Therefore, the broader impacts of this project are poised to not only contribute to the DRK-12 portfolio but also advance knowledge in Indigenous STEM education and science education, more broadly.

Over a three year period, hundreds of Native American students (grades 4-9) in tribal schools located in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho will engage in the project. Each year, approximately 60-80 students (grades 7-9), with some returning students, will also participate in enrichment activities and in years 1-3, in the residential summer experience at Washington State University. A qualitative, quasi-experimental design-based study will be conducted to address three salient research questions: (a) What are the impacts of culturally responsive and land education-based ISTEM curriculum and technology on Native American student engagement, efficacy and achievement in school? (b) What types of professional development activities foster teacher efficacy and improve teacher learning and teaching of ISTEM in classrooms? and (c) How can ISTEM foster greater family and community engagement in schools and in Tribal Communities? Data will be collected through interviews, surveys, and or questionnaires from participating students, teachers, and Tribal members. Consistent with Indigenous methodologies, focus group interviews (talking circles) will also be facilitated after ISTEM community expositions and engagement activities to capture community impacts. Formative and summative evaluations will be conducted by the Learning and Performance Research Center (LPRC) at Washington State University, an independent entity of the University with extensive expertise in project evaluation. A broad range of dissemination activities will be employed to achieve maximum impacts, including the use of the Plateau People's Web Portal, a digital tool designed to help Native communities to manage, circulate, and curate their digital materials using their own cultural protocols, language and social systems. This regional collaboration includes partnerships with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs (Oregon), Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (Washington), and the Coeur D'Alene Tribe (Idaho).


Project Videos

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Culturally Responsive Indigenous Science

Presenter(s): Paula Price, Carladean Caldera, Landon Charlo, Kellie Fry, Zoe Higheagle Strong, Sandra Larios, James Lasarte-Whistocken, Lotus Norton-Wisla, & T Watson


Youth Participatory Science to Address Urban Heavy Metal Contamination

This project is focused on the work and learning of teachers as they engage youth from underrepresented groups in studying chemistry as a subject relevant to heavy metal contamination in their neighborhoods. The project will position Chicago teachers and students as Change Makers who are capable of addressing the crises of inequity in science education and environmental contamination that matter deeply to them, while simultaneously advancing their own understanding and expertise.

Award Number: 
1720856
Funding Period: 
Mon, 05/15/2017 to Thu, 04/30/2020
Full Description: 

This project is focused on the work and learning of teachers as they engage youth from underrepresented groups in studying chemistry as a subject relevant to heavy metal contamination in their neighborhoods. The project is a collaboration of teachers in the Chicago Public Schools, science educators, chemists, and environmental scientists from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University, Loyola University, and members of the Chicago Environmental Justice Network. The project is significant because it leverages existing partnerships and builds on pilot projects which will be informed by a corresponding cycle of research on teachers' learning and practice. The project will position Chicago teachers and students as Change Makers who are capable of addressing the crises of inequity in science education and environmental contamination that matter deeply to them, while simultaneously advancing their own understanding and expertise. The project will examine the malleable factors affecting the ability of teachers to engage underrepresented students in innovative urban citizen science projects with a focus on the synergistic learning that occurs as teachers, students, scientists, and community members work together on addressing complex socio-scientific issues.

The goal is to provide a network of intellectual and analytical support to high school chemistry teachers engaged in customizing curricula in response to urban environmental concerns. The project will use an annual summer institute where collaborators will develop curriculum and procedures for collecting soil and water samples. In the project, the teachers and students will work with university scientists to analyze these samples for heavy metals, and students will share their results in community settings. The study design will be multiple case and be used to study the content knowledge learned and mobilized by participating teachers as they develop these authentic projects. The project includes explicit focus on the professional development of high school science teachers while it also aims to create rich learning opportunities for underrepresented high school students in STEM fields. The contextualized science concepts within students' everyday experiences or socio-scientific issues will likely have a positive impact on student motivation and learning outcomes, but the experiences of urban students are less likely to be reflected by the curriculum, and the practices of effective secondary science teachers in these contexts are under-examined.

The following article is in press and will be available soon:

Morales-Doyle, D., Childress-Price, T., & Chappell, M. (in press). Chemicals are contaminants too: Teaching appreciation and critique of science in the era of NGSS. Science Education. https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.21546

High School Students' Climate Literacy Through Epistemology of Scientific Modeling (Collaborative Research: Forbes)

This project will focus on learning about model based reasoning in science, and will develop, implement, study, and refine a 6-week climate science module for high school students. The module will feature use of a web-based climate modeling application, and the project team will collect and analyze evidence of model-based reasoning about climate phenomena among students.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720838
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Fri, 12/31/2021
Full Description: 

This project will focus on learning about model based reasoning in science, and will develop, implement, study, and refine a 6-week climate science module for high school students. The module will feature use of a web-based climate modeling application, and the project team will collect and analyze evidence of model-based reasoning about climate phenomena among students. Scientists routinely use data-intensive, computer-based models to study complex natural phenomena, and modeling has become a core objective of current science curriculum standards. The project will provide new insights about student use of scientific models to understand natural phenomena, and advance knowledge about curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices that promote model-based reasoning among students.

This 4-year Design and Development project will examine use of a web-based climate modeling tool designed to provide non-scientists experiences with climate modeling in high school geoscience classrooms. A theoretically-grounded and empirically tested approach to design-based research, instructional design, and assessment development will be used in an iterative cycle of instructional innovation and education research to find answers to two research questions: 1) How do secondary students develop epistemic and conceptual knowledge about climate? And 2) How do secondary science teachers support student use of climate modeling application to develop epistemic and conceptual knowledge about climate? Data associated with conceptual and epistemic knowledge, curriculum-embedded modeling tasks, interviews, and videorecorded observations of instruction will be used to study impacts of the new curriculum module on 55 high school science teachers and 3,000 students. Project participants include students from low socioeconomic populations and other groups underrepresented in STEM fields. The curriculum will also serve as a resource for an existing, online professional development course at the American Museum of Natural History that engages teachers nationwide.

Learning in Places: Field Based Science in Early Childhood Education

This project aims to develop an innovative field-based science learning approach that will support the capacity of culturally diverse students in Grades K-3 to engage in complex ecological reasoning and related problem solving. To provide rich learning environments, outdoor learning gardens will be created in which students, teachers, garden educators, and families participate in activities that facilitate the investigation of tangible ecological challenges such as water capture and food security.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720578
Funding Period: 
Sat, 07/01/2017 to Wed, 06/30/2021
Full Description: 

Recent evidence suggests that reasoning and making decisions about ecological systems is a cultural activity that impacts participation in the core scientific practices of observation, evidence use, and claims making. This project aims to develop an innovative field-based science learning approach that will support the capacity of culturally diverse students in Grades K-3 to engage in complex ecological reasoning and related problem solving. To provide rich learning environments, outdoor learning gardens will be created in which students, teachers, garden educators, and families participate in activities that facilitate the investigation of tangible ecological challenges such as water capture and food security.

Using design-based research, the project team will collaborate with teachers, parents of participating students, and community garden educators to collectively design and develop four key components: 1) field-based curricular units for K-3 classrooms; 2) a model of family and community engagement that strengthens cultural relevance and equity in field-based science learning; 3) a pilot program of teacher professional development that informs future scaling efforts; and 4) research that unpacks student learning and teacher instructional practices that support children?s complex ecological reasoning and the cultural contexts of such knowledge. Data sources will include video, interviews, surveys, and student-created artifacts. A mixed-methods approach will be used to produce research findings at multiple levels including: student learning about complex ecological phenomena and field-based practices; classroom-level learning and high-leverage teaching practices in model units at each grade level; impacts of co-design on professional learning and practice; and family and community organizations learning and engagement in field-based science education. The project will be carried out by a research-practice-community partnership in Seattle, Washington that includes learning scientists (University of Washington), K-3 teachers and school administrators (Seattle Public Schools), garden educators (Seattle Tilth), and parents of participating students. In total, eight schools, 32 teachers, 800 students, and 32 families are expected to participate.

High School Students' Climate Literacy Through Epistemology of Scientific Modeling (Collaborative Research: Chandler)

This project will focus on learning about model based reasoning in science, and will develop, implement, study, and refine a 6-week climate science module for high school students. The module will feature use of a web-based climate modeling application, and the project team will collect and analyze evidence of model-based reasoning about climate phenomena among students.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1719872
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Fri, 12/31/2021
Full Description: 

This project will focus on learning about model based reasoning in science, and will develop, implement, study, and refine a 6-week climate science module for high school students. The module will feature use of a web-based climate modeling application, and the project team will collect and analyze evidence of model-based reasoning about climate phenomena among students. Scientists routinely use data-intensive, computer-based models to study complex natural phenomena, and modeling has become a core objective of current science curriculum standards. The project will provide new insights about student use of scientific models to understand natural phenomena, and advance knowledge about curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices that promote model-based reasoning among students.

This 4-year Design and Development project will examine use of a web-based climate modeling tool designed to provide non-scientists experiences with climate modeling in high school geoscience classrooms. A theoretically-grounded and empirically tested approach to design-based research, instructional design, and assessment development will be used in an iterative cycle of instructional innovation and education research to find answers to two research questions: 1) How do secondary students develop epistemic and conceptual knowledge about climate? And 2) How do secondary science teachers support student use of climate modeling application to develop epistemic and conceptual knowledge about climate? Data associated with conceptual and epistemic knowledge, curriculum-embedded modeling tasks, interviews, and videorecorded observations of instruction will be used to study impacts of the new curriculum module on 55 high school science teachers and 3,000 students. Project participants include students from low socioeconomic populations and other groups underrepresented in STEM fields. The curriculum will also serve as a resource for an existing, online professional development course at the American Museum of Natural History that engages teachers nationwide.

Zoom In! Learning Science with Data

This project will address the need for high quality evidence-based models, practices, and tools for high school teachers and the development of students' problem solving and analytical skills by leveraging novel research and design approaches using digital tools and two well-established online instructional platforms: Zoom In and Common Online Data Analysis Platform.            

Award Number: 
1621289
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

This project will expand the DRK-12 portfolio by contributing to a limited program portfolio on data science, and also by being responsive to a broader, national discourse on data science, exemplified in the data-dependent scientific practices emphasis in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). With the impetus toward data literacy, an acute need has emerged for high quality evidence-based models, practices, and tools to better prepare high school teachers to teach data skills and for students to develop the problem solving and analytical skills needed to interpret and understand data, particularly in the sciences. This project will address these challenges by leveraging novel research and design approaches, using digital tools and two well-established online instructional platforms; Zoom In and Common Online Data Analysis Platform.

With a user base of over 27,000 teachers and students, the existing Zoom In platform has proven successful in fostering evidence-based inquiry among social studies teachers. This project will test the feasibility of the platform to facilitate data-focused inquiry and skill development among high school science teachers and their students. In Year 1, two NGSS-aligned digital curriculum modules and supporting materials focused on scientific phenomena and problems in biology and earth science will be developed for high school science teachers and embedded in a modified iteration of Zoom In. The Common Online Data Analysis Platform (CODAP) will be integrated into the modules to make hierarchical data structures, modeling, visualizations, and dynamic linking possible within Zoom In. A pilot and usability test will be conducted with 16 teachers and 100 students from diverse New York City public high schools. Two teacher focus groups and think-aloud sessions with the students will be held. In Year 2, the remaining four modules will be developed. Guided by four research questions, field testing with teachers and students will be done to assess the content, CODAP data tools, Zoom-in student supports, teacher supports, and outcome measures. In Year 3, final revisions to the tools will be completed. A small-scale efficacy test will be conducted to assess aspects of the implementation process, practices, and overall impact of the modules on student learning. For the efficacy study, a two-level cluster-randomized design will be employed to randomly assign schools to the Zoom In intervention. A comparison group will use another existing well-designed data literacy digital instructional platform but without key aspects of Zoom In. Outcome measures will be administered at the beginning and end of the school year to the treatment and comparison groups. Back-end data, observational data, and teacher log data will be collected and analyzed. Qualitative data will be gathered from teacher and student observations and interviews and analyzed. Researchers will analyze the impact on student learning using hierarchical linear models with an effect treatment condition and student-and-class-level covariates. The research findings will be broadly disseminated through the Zoom In platform, conferences, publications, and social media.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Zoom In! Learning Science with Data

Presenter(s): Megan Silander & Bill Tally


Geological Models for Explorations of Dynamic Earth (GEODE): Integrating the Power of Geodynamic Models in Middle School Earth Science Curriculum

This project will develop and research the transformational potential of geodynamic models embedded in learning progression-informed online curricula modules for middle school teaching and learning of Earth science. The primary goal of the project is to conduct design-based research to study the development of model-based curriculum modules, assessment instruments, and professional development materials for supporting student learning of (1) plate tectonics and related Earth processes, (2) modeling practices, and (3) uncertainty-infused argumentation practices.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621176
Funding Period: 
Mon, 08/15/2016 to Fri, 07/31/2020
Full Description: 

This project will contribute to the Earth science education community's understanding of how engaging students with dynamic computer-based systems models supports their learning of complex Earth science concepts regarding Earth's surface phenomena and sub-surface processes. It will also extend the field's understandings of how students develop modeling practices and how models are used to support scientific endeavors. This research will shed light on the role uncertainty plays when students use models to develop scientific arguments with model-based evidence. The GEODE project will directly involve over 4,000 students and 22 teachers from diverse school systems serving students from families with a variety of socioeconomic, cultural, and racial backgrounds. These students will engage with important geoscience concepts that underlie some of the most critical socio-scientific challenges facing humanity at this time. The GEODE project research will also seek to understand how teachers' practices need to change in order to take advantage of these sophisticated geodynamic modeling tools. The materials generated through design and development will be made available for free to all future learners, teachers, and researchers beyond the participants outlined in the project.

The GEODE project will develop and research the transformational potential of geodynamic models embedded in learning progression-informed online curricula modules for middle school teaching and learning of Earth science. The primary goal of the project is to conduct design-based research to study the development of model-based curriculum modules, assessment instruments, and professional development materials for supporting student learning of (1) plate tectonics and related Earth processes, (2) modeling practices, and (3) uncertainty-infused argumentation practices. The GEODE software will permit students to "program" a series of geologic events into the model, gather evidence from the emergent phenomena that result from the model, revise the model, and use their models to explain the dynamic mechanisms related to plate motion and associated geologic phenomena such as sedimentation, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and deformation of strata. The project will also study the types of teacher practices necessary for supporting the use of dynamic computer models of complex phenomena and the use of curriculum that include an explicit focus on uncertainty-infused argumentation.

Exploring Ways to Transform Teaching Practices to Increase Native Hawaiian Students' Interest in STEM

This project will integrate Native Hawaiian cross-cultural practices to explore ways to help teachers know about and know how to connect resources of students' familiar worlds to their science teaching. This project will transform the ways teachers orient their teaching at the upper elementary and middle grades through professional development courses offered at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1551502
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2015 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

This project will integrate Native Hawaiian cross-cultural practices to explore ways to help teachers know about and know how to connect resources of students' familiar worlds to their science teaching. This research is needed since Native Hawaiians are often stereotyped as poor learners; the available STEM workforce falls short of meeting the demands of STEM employers in the state; and as the largest group of public school enrollees, data show a greater decline in percent of students meeting or exceeding proficiency in science at higher grade levels. This project will address these issues by transforming the ways teachers orient their teaching at the upper elementary and middle grades through professional development courses offered at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The professional development model for teachers will be situated in the larger national and global contexts of an increasingly technology oriented, urbanized society with associated marginalization of indigenous people whose traditional ecological knowledge and indigenous languages are often overlooked. Guided by the cultural mental model theory and a mixed methods approach, data will be collected through document analysis, surveys, individual and focus group interviews, and pre-post assessments. This approach will capture initials findings about the influence of the professional development model on teaching and learning in science. The end products from this project will be an improved professional development model that is more sensitive to contexts that promote learning by Native Hawaiian students. It will also produce a survey instrument to assess student interest and engagement in science learning whose teachers will have participated in the professional development model being explored. Both outcomes will potentially be instrumental in changing the way approximately 2000 Native Hawaiian students learn about and become more interested in STEM fields through their natural world.

Mathematical and Computational Methods for Planning a Sustainable Future II

The project will develop modules for grades 9-12 that integrate mathematics, computing and science in sustainability contexts. The project materials also include information about STEM careers in sustainability to increase the relevancy of the content for students and broaden their understanding of STEM workforce opportunities. It uses summer workshops to pilot test materials and online support and field testing in four states. 

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1503414
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/15/2015 to Sun, 06/30/2019
Full Description: 

The project will develop modules for grades 9-12 that integrate mathematics, computing and science in sustainability contexts. The project materials also include information about STEM careers in sustainability to increase the relevancy of the content for students and broaden their understanding of STEM workforce opportunities. It uses summer workshops to pilot test materials and online support and field testing in four states. Outcomes include the modules, tested and revised; strategies for transfer of learning embedded in the modules; and a compendium of green jobs, explicitly related to the modules. 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 (RMTs). 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. The STEM+Computing Partnerships (STEM+C) Program is a joint effort between the Directorate for Education & Human Resources (EHR) and Directorate Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE). Reflecting the increasing role of computational approaches in learning across the STEM disciplines, STEM+C supports research and development efforts that integrate computing within one or more STEM disciplines and/or integrate STEM learning in computer science; 2) advance multidisciplinary, collaborative approaches for integrating computing in STEM in and out of school, and 3) build capacity in K-12 computing education through foundational research and focused teacher preparation

The project is a full design and development project in the learning strand of DRK-12. The goal is to enhance transfer of knowledge in mathematics and science via sustainability tasks with an emphasis on mathematical and scientific practices. The research questions focus on how conceptual representations and the modules support students' learning and especially transfer to novel problems. The project design integrates the research with the curriculum development. It includes a mixed methods data collection and analysis from teachers and students (e.g., interviews, content exams, focus groups, implementation logs). Assessment of student work includes both short, focused problems in the content area and longer project-based tasks providing a range of assessments of student learning. The investigators will develop a rubric for scoring student work on the tasks. The curriculum design process includes iterations of the modules over time with feedback from teachers and using data collected from the implementation.

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