Urban Advantage: Formal-Informal Partnerships to Improve STEM Teaching and Learning in Middle School Science Classrooms

This session examines the potential and challenges of developing effective formal-informal partnerships to support STEM teaching and learning and embedding research agendas into this work.

PI-organized Discussion

This session presents the work from three projects that are addressing the challenges of using secondary data sets in the classroom to teach ecology. Presenters from each project provide a brief overview of their development and research work followed by a question and answer period. A panel discussion with participants focuses on the following three questions: What are the challenges and benefits of bringing “real” data to the classroom? How do you make complex data accessible to middle and high school students? What are reasonable goals for using “real” data in the formal classroom setting? The three projects include:

The Ecology Disrupted curriculum uses media and published data to help ninth-grade New York City public school biology students link ecological interactions to the environmental issues that result when daily life disrupts normal ecological function. The goal of this curriculum is to change student conceptions that their daily life is unrelated to ecological function. To achieve this learning goal, students interact with media and explore “real” data to learn the ecological implications of seemingly mundane daily human activities. This project seeks to understand how using these case studies affect student learning of ecological function in the context of human impact, the role of daily life in human impact, and how science is used to learn about human impact.

Does working with primary and secondary ecological data improve students’ knowledge of ecological ideas, motivation and engagement in science, data exploration and citizenship skills? The Data Explorations in Ecology Project (DEEP) has been exploring this question with high school science teachers in New York State for the past year using a framework that targets key concepts and skills in data exploration. Teachers implement carefully designed modules that integrate primary and secondary data into their ecology curricula. Findings from a pilot study show no significant difference between the knowledge of students who used primary and secondary data and those who didn’t, but significant increases were observed in motivation, engagement, data exploration and citizenship skills between the two groups.

Learning Science as Inquiry with the Urban Advantage: Formal-Informal Collaborations to Increase Science Literacy and Student Learning has designed a teaching case to be used with middle school science teachers to promote their understanding of scientific inquiry and the use of authentic secondary scientific data sets. The teaching case focuses on field research related to the zebra mussel invasion of the Hudson River ecosystem and consists of text passages, video resources, and an interactive Web-based graphing and data analysis tool. A written case study is used in conjunction with videos to provide background information about the history of the zebra mussel invasion and details about how data is gathered by scientists.