This project will develop STEM spatial thinking skills of middle school learners by equipping teachers with earth science investigations and support materials. This project will design, develop, and test curriculum materials that use Web Geospatial Information Systems that includes advanced visualization and geospatial analysis capabilities. The project will analyze how educative curriculum materials can prepare teachers to implement Web-based geospatial science pedagogical approaches to teaching, and document the impacts on student learning.
The intellectual merit of the project is enhanced by our innovative spatial learning design model and the creation of a new Web GIS to develop spatial thinking skills that are an enhancement to learning earth science content. We seek to fill a deficiency in curricular materials in the earth sciences by taking advantage of newly available Web GIS applications and tools. This fulfills a pressing need in middle school STEM education. Our materials will provide research-based science learning materials designed for diverse middle school learners to promote spatial thinking. In addition, earth science literacy will be enabled through the use of design principles and frameworks that include robust educative curriculum materials to promote not only student learning, but teacher learning as well. The focus on Web-based spatial thinking and inquiry is unique in that the learning experiences we design for students will promote strong connections between national to global earth science issues while concurrently instilling spatial thinking skills. Our work will be enhanced through a design partnership model for the development of all curriculum materials that includes science educators, scientists, instructional designers, and classroom teachers. The project will advance our knowledge in important and significant ways to help the science education community understand how students develop spatial thinking skills that are essential to learning science and other disciplines with new Web GIS applications.