Exemplary Programs in Successful STEM Education

The following resources are examples of programs and projects—many of which are funded by the National Science Foundation—that outline elements that contribute to successful STEM education, and that also are aligned with the recommendations of the National Research Council reports, Successful K-12 STEM Education and Monitoring Progress Toward Successful K-12 STEM Education.
Several government funded projects are developing facet-based, diagnostic formative assessments to support teachers in understanding and addressing their students’ conceptual strengths and weaknesses and to promote students’ conceptual change in science at the middle school level, high school level and beyond. These projects bring together experts in assessment, science education, science teaching, and science content from SRI International, FACET Innovations, Sonoma State University, University of Illinois Chicago, Seattle Pacific University and the University of Washington. Supported by research on students' preconceptions, particularly in science, and their need to build on the knowledge and skills that students bring to the classroom, the projects are aimed at implementing a facets-of-thinking perspective for the improvement of formative assessment, learning, and instruction in precollege science classrooms.
Exhibit, Other, Philadelphia Launch Event
CIRCL brings together the research of more than 200 separately funded research projects in the National Science Foundation theme of “cyberlearning.” New technologies change what and how people learn. Informed by learning science, cyberlearning is the use of new technology to create effective new learning experiences that were never possible or practical before.
San Francisco Workshop, Project or Program
DSST’s (Denver School for Science and Technology) Stapleton High is the founding school in a network of public charter schools. DSST Public Schools currently operates five STEM open-enrollment charter schools, four middle schools, and two high schools, serving almost 2,000 students in Denver, Colorado.
Supportive Infrastructure, Project or Program, Las Vegas Workshop
Critical Zone Observatories (CZOs), funded by the National Science Foundation, are environmental laboratories established to study the chemical, physical and biological processes that shape the Earth’s surface. Little is known about how these processes are coupled and at what temporal and spatial scales. CZO research seeks to understand these couplings through monitoring and modeling at the watershed scale. As part of this research initiative, CZO sites are encouraged to bring research to K–12 students in the field and in their classrooms. The three Pennsylvania-based CZOs represented here have developed innovative education projects that illustrate the research of Earth’s Critical Zone: (1) a STEM academy that emphasizes hands-on activities with students in the field; (2) an after-school science club where students learn about soil characteristics and how they reflect the ecosystems where the soils formed; (3) programs where middle-school students build environmental sensors to investigate the environment of their school yard; (4) a data visualization portal that provides real-time data on CZO research that can be used in middle and high school math and science classrooms; and (5) stream-table demonstrations that allow students to experience hand-on science in their own classrooms.
Exhibit, Other, Philadelphia Launch Event
These Education Development Center (EDC) projects—a logic-building algebra intervention curriculum, a professional development program, and a set of mathematical puzzle apps—build essential algebraic habits of mind that, in alignment with the Common Core Mathematical Practice Standards, include abstracting regularity from repeated reasoning, using general purpose tools strategically to organize mathematical thinking, seeking and using structure, communicating with precision, and puzzling and persevering through mathematical problems. The approach is designed for a diverse population of students at risk of losing access to STEM coursework and careers.
Equal Access, Baltimore Workshop, Project or Program
Our Mathematics and Science Partnership focuses on enhancing environmental literacy in K–12 schools and beyond through research on student and teacher learning, professional development informed by the research, and institutional reform. We work at the critical education juncture of middle school through high school (grades 6–12). The project connects the research strengths in the environmental sciences and education of our partner universities and sites within the NSF-funded Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network with K–12 teacher professional development in science and mathematics of our partner schools. The program takes advantage of the local and regional partnerships between the universities and the K–12 districts and provides a common research framework and professional development model. As such, site-based research and professional development are implemented and coordinated within a network. Our work emphasizes a core set of environmental issues defined by researchers within the LTER network, alignment of those issues to state science and mathematics content standards, research on student and teacher understanding of principles underlying the environmental issues, and the development and implementation of professional development and instructional strategies that are informed by this research. Partnership between K–12 and higher education and engagement of each in the others’ activities, institutions, and cultures are key elements to approach and success.
Supportive Infrastructure, Project or Program, Seattle Workshop
On a broad, national level, DeafTEC: Technological Education Center for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students, a National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education (NSF ATE) National Center of Excellence, serves as a resource for high schools and community colleges that educate deaf and hard-of-hearing (deaf/hh) students in STEM-related programs and for employers hiring deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. DeafTEC is also establishing a model within targeted regions of the country to create partnerships among high schools, community colleges, and industry to improve access to technological education and employment for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals.
Needham Workshop, Other, Project or Program
The Concord Consortium is a nonprofit R&D organization in Concord, Mass., dedicated to transforming education through technology. Our free, deeply-digital tools and learning activities capture the power of curiosity and create revolutionary new approaches to science, math, and engineering education that bring out the inner scientist in everyone. Since 1994, we have been pioneers in probeware, models and simulations, data collection with mobile computing, online assessment and teacher professional development, and the nation’s first online high school.
Effective Instruction, Project or Program, Las Vegas Workshop
Design Squad is an NSF-funded digital hub for middle school children that includes (1) television episodes and short videos streamed on, (2) an online community of young engineers, and (3) hands-on engineering activities. Designed to increase children’s understanding of engineering, the Emmy and Peabody Award–winning television series follows two teams of teens as they design and build projects for real-world clients—from constructing cardboard furniture for IKEA to designing peanut butter makers for a women’s collective in Haiti.
Atlanta Workshop, Project or Program
The PBS TV series and website Design Squad, and its spin off series Design Squad Nation, are designed to get its viewers involved in engineering through an integrated media experience and grassroots outreach campaign. Design Squad is a reality competition series where six teenagers learn to think smart, build fast, and contend with a wild array of engineering challenges. With Design Squad Nation, engineer co-hosts Judy and Adam travel across the country, working side by side with kids to turn their dreams into reality. Our ultimate goal with both projects is to inspire viewers to take on their own hands-on engineering activities. To achieve this, developers have created an online community for user-generated content. In local communities, PBS has staged public events that get kids engaged in hands-on design challenges. And, through its outreach, PBS has provided approaches for modeling the design process with kids through trainings; educational resources; and support for teachers, engineers, and informal educators. A new project—Design Squad: Informal Pathways to Engineering—will use existing assets from Design Squad, along with new resources, as the vehicle for researching the diverse pathways children take while pursuing an interest in engineering. WGBH, in collaboration with Purdue University and Concord Evaluation Group (CEG), will conduct a qualitative, longitudinal study of 60 middle school children, representing a range of geographic, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds, that will examine the ways in which informal engineering programs support (or fail to support) children’s engineering-related interests, outcome expectations, and self-efficacy.
Exhibit, Other, Philadelphia Launch Event