Project-based Inquiry Science (PBIS) is a recently published middle school science curriculum that emphasizes learning science and engineering through projects. Funded by the National Science Foundation and published by It’s About Time, PBIS materials are aligned with the National Science Education Standards and with most state standards documents. PBIS is becoming the middle school science curriculum for students across the country, as it incorporates research-based pedagogies into the learning experiences of students, while meeting the needs of schools and teachers. The PBIS curriculum employs a system of Big Questions and Big Challenges to focus students on scientific and engineering design practices in each unit. Students become experienced at using various scientific models and computer-based simulations, creating and updating scientific explanations, sharing their ideas with others through a variety of formats, and listening to the ideas of others and incorporating these ideas into their own knowledge base. The Project Board is an instructional and learning tool that is embedded within each unit to assist students in identifying changes in their learning over time. The Project Board also supports students as they develop understanding of how to ask testable questions and search for answers to these questions, and how to support their ideas with evidence. By continually updating the Project Board throughout the unit, students develop deeper content knowledge, share ideas with others, and create a public display of the class understanding that shows growth and change over time.
The Math and Science Partnership Knowledge Management and Dissemination (MSP-KMD) was funded as a Research, Evaluation, and Technical Assistance project to support knowledge management within the MSP program and to disseminate information to the broader mathematics and science education community. The overall goal of MSP-KMD was to synthesize findings in the K–12 arena in a small number of important areas, articulating the contribution of the MSP program to the knowledge base and identifying “gaps” and promising practices/strategies for further investigation. In this way, MSPs and the field at large can benefit from MSPs’ research and development efforts.
“When students from non-mainstream backgrounds receive equitable learning opportunities, they are capable of attaining science outcomes comparable to their mainstream peers. The same is true for mathematics and, presumably, for other STEM subjects, as well.” Read this brief to dive further into what can be done to improve the academic achievement of students from all backgrounds.
The Ramps and Pathways project reflects an approach to engaging young children with physical science and engineering that is both developmentally appropriate and intellectually rigorous. It capitalizes on young children’s intrinsic desire to make something interesting happen; specifically, it engages children in designing, building, and using increasingly more complex ramp structures on which to move spheres and other objects. In doing so, it engages children in the design process: ask a question or identify a problem, plan, create, test, improve, and evaluate. Most engineering curricula for older children include linear models of the design process that consist of variations of these steps. However, such linear models fail to capture the realities of young children’s exploratory play and investigation of physical phenomena. The Ramps and Pathways project subscribes to a model of the design process in PreK-2nd grade classrooms that does not reveal itself as steps, but rather as non-sequential components that are often enacted simultaneously (sometimes within a few seconds). The Ramps and Pathways’ process emphasizes the iterative nature of the design process which is sometimes quite messy.
Real World Externships were developed as a solution to the often heard question of students, "When am I ever going to use this?" Teachers of secondary mathematics, science, and technology may not experience or become knowledgeable about the applications of their disciplines in industry through the course of standard teacher preparation. A bridge is needed to connect educators to the private sector. That is the impetus behind this program. Real World Externships provide educators with the experience to steer students to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) related careers. This is accomplished by teachers working side-by-side with local businesses and organizations in or near the community they serve. What all Real World Externships business partners have in common are commitments to STEM education in their communities and the capacity to provide a teacher with inspiring, meaningful projects working in consultation with academic mentors through the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council.
The Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing (RCNGM) is a National Science Foundation-funded Advanced Technological Education (NSF ATE) Center of Excellence developed by the Connecticut College of Technology (COT) in 2004 to develop a response to workforce needs for all 12 community colleges in Connecticut. The goals of the RCNGM are the creation of articulation pathways, student recruitment and retention, curriculum development, and professional development. Through open meetings of the Site Coordinator Council, input is received from community college and university faculty, government representatives, business and industry partners, and educational program partners.
This program of research, funded by the NSF, has shown that individual differences in early spatial skills are important factors, both in students’ early acquisition of arithmetic and their later math reasoning skills. Spatial skills consist of the ability to use mental pictures for solutions to problems—such as interpreting graphs, charts, and maps, and understanding geometry and measurement problems. It is particularly important to study the relation between spatial skills and math performance in girls, because on average, males tend to do better than females on key types of spatial tasks even in children as young as ages 3 and 4. In older students, higher spatial skills have also been shown to predict math achievement and choice of STEM majors and careers, particularly in fields where women are underrepresented. Research has clearly shown that spatial skills can be improved through training. This research has focused on understanding individual differences in early acquisition of spatial skills and the supportive strategies and methods that can be employed to scaffold these skills by teachers and parents.
Pressure is on public schools to prepare all students for college and to encourage more students to enter careers in science and math. These challenges require a dramatic change in educational practice, as less than half of students in typical schools graduate with sufficient skills to be likely to succeed in college, and few students enter careers in STEM. Schools are being asked to raise the skills of the lowest-achieving students to levels that were previously achieved by the highest-achieving students. The hope is that improving the teacher workforce and making curricula more rigorous will provide the needed change.
Over a period of several years, Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz) has successfully partnered with key leaders to establish the Arizona STEM Network to drive access to effective STEM education for all Arizona students by creating a culture of achievement. As part of this work, SFAz has led a number of projects focused on implementing and sustaining Engineering Pathways, a model that links student experiences across education sectors (K–12 through postsecondary) to engage and excite students about STEM career opportunities, prepare students for rigorous college coursework, and support acquisition of meaningful career knowledge and skills leading to program degrees and credentials, and completers performing in the workplace.
Science in the Learning Gardens (SciLG) brings together two recent education movements: adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and a surge of national interest in garden-based learning.
This project is funded by the National Science Foundation, grants # 0822241, 1449550, 1650648, and 1743807. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in these materials are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.