MothEd - Authentic Science for Elementary and Middle School Students

Widely-adopted science education standards have expanded expectations for students to learn science research processes. To address these needs, the project will research and develop curricular materials and classroom practices that teachers can use to bring authentic science into their classes and engage students as active science researchers. The project, called MothEd, will focus on the study of moths, which are well-suited to the project’s goal of having students conduct authentic scientific investigations.

Full Description: 

There are few opportunities and curriculum materials that support teachers in engaging elementary and middle-school students in scientific research processes and in conducting their own investigations. Widely-adopted science education standards have expanded expectations for students to learn science research processes. To address these needs, the project will research and develop curricular materials and classroom practices that teachers can use to bring authentic science into their classes and engage students as active science researchers. The project, called MothEd, will focus on the study of moths, which are well-suited to the project’s goal of having students conduct authentic scientific investigations. Moths are ecologically important, easy to capture, and there is a lack of research on moths compared to many other insect species. In the project activities, students will construct moth traps and collect data through research processes that they design and carry out. The project is building on an approach called community science (sometimes called citizen science), where non-scientists in local communities voluntarily contribute to scientific research. Students and teachers will work in partnership with entomologists and science educators to develop and answer questions about local ecological conditions and will become genuine producers of knowledge within science learning communities. Students will work collaboratively within an online platform to design experiments using a complete suite of research tools for collection, expression, and analysis of data, including sensors, photographs, sketches, and graphs. The project will develop curricular materials that will provide teaching and learning materials that are focused on giving students place-based opportunities to conduct age-appropriate scientific investigations.

MothEd’s educational research will investigate several questions: (1) what students understand about scientific research processes and how they see themselves in that process; (2) how students can work as partners with scientists in discovery and what do they learn about research methods and moth ecology; and (3) What supports teachers need in order to support students as active science researchers. Using a mixed methods approach, the project will collect a variety of data for the research: in-class observations of student work; pre- and post- activity surveys about their knowledge of moth ecology and their view and understanding of science research processes; teacher interviews; and analysis of data collected by project software on student work and collaboration. The project will be designed to ensure that the MothEd education materials can be adopted and used independently by teachers across the country. Project research findings and materials will be shared via conferences, journal publications, and the project’s collaborative learning environment.

Project Materials

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