Community Science Investigators (CSI)
Community Science Investigators engages 36 teachers and 360 middle school students from the St. Louis and Boston regions in investigations of authentic community issues through gaming simulations, applications of geospatial technologies, and service.
Community Science Investigators (CSI) is an ITEST Strategies project that brings together the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in offering year-long, career-focused technology experiences for 360 middle school youth and 36 teachers in an out-of-school setting. Through CSI, participants from St. Louis and Boston will learn to apply geospatial, simulation, and communication technologies as they address environmental and conservation-related issues. CSI is built on a year-long program which has three phases: students’ engagement in the simulation games, students’ investigation of environmental issues using geographic information system (GIS) software and finally students’ involvement in technology based service learning projects. The first phase centers on ‘augmented reality’ (AR) simulation games. In these games, students will navigate an area in their community with the help of a geospatially-enabled handheld computer, with their real-time location shown on an aerial photograph. Each AR game challenges students to investigate a real-life scientific challenge. Throughout the game, students integrate information, and develop an argument based on evidence. This entire process is undertaken in the assumed role of a STEM professional. After the experience in simulation, students will investigate authentic community environmental issues with the help of geographic information system (GIS) software and related resources, such as remote sensing imagery. Two core project domains, water quality studies and management of invasive species, will guide students/ work using the augmented reality games and the geospatial tools. From there, CSI teams will be guided to either extend these studies or branch out into new areas of inquiry. Building on their growing interest and competence, students (and their teachers as mentors) will apply their technology skills and improved content understanding in environmental sciences through service-learning projects. These projects are supposed to provide opportunities for students to acquire technological skills, and motivation for further study in STEM fields. In the final phase of the project students will create original augmented reality games to integrate their developing scientific and technological competence. The student work in CSI will be supported by teachers from their schools, each of whom will participate in a 124-hour professional development experience focusing on youth mentoring for STEM careers, sustaining student inquiry, and using advanced technological tools.