Innovative Collaborative Research Experience and Technical Education (iCREATE)
Approximately 150 rural high school students from Flagstaff, AZ and surrounding reservations are engaged in a problem-based learning experience in a CTE bioscience course designed to increase the local bioscience workforce through community involvement.
This project will advance efforts of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to better understand and promote practices that increase students' motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) by producing empirical findings and/or research tools that contribute to knowledge about which models and interventions with K-12 students and teachers are most likely to increase capacity in the STEM and STEM cognate intensive workforce of the future.
The overall objective of this project will be testing a model of community engagement in STEM learning through the design and implementation of a high school level career and technical education (CTE) bioscience course. The problem, the spread of infectious disease, specifically influenza, was chosen for the local community (Coconino County, AZ) after consultation with community partners. The project emanates from efforts in education designed to develop the next generation of STEM innovators who can productively participate in our increasingly global society. Developing the next generation of STEM innovators will be difficult as only 62% of Arizona high-school sophomores passed Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards in Mathematics (AIMS) and only 40% of those sophomores passed the Science AIMS. At the same time, the disaggregation of this data shows the achievement gap between students of underserved populations and Caucasian students continues to grow significantly in both areas. Locally, industry and community leaders in Coconino County and the City of Flagstaff have shared similar concerns. For instance, the Flagstaff business community has recognized the compelling need for an increased and better-educated workforce by initiating the Flagstaff STEM Consortium in August 2012, which named Flagstaff "America's 1st STEM Community". While Flagstaff has numerous STEM professionals in all fields, and many have presented to local students, there is a clear need for more meaningful and sustainable connections between students and STEM businesses and agencies in order to increase student motivation and interest in STEM learning and careers. The iCREATE project directly addresses the STEM workforce problem at a regional level. In addition, the project specifically targets the underrepresentation of students of color in the STEM workforce. The courses provided by CAVIAT, including the bioscience courses in this project, serve the diverse population of Coconino County.
The project ensures a high-quality STEM workforce for Flagstaff and Northern Arizona, which is designed to 1) increases student awareness of career opportunities in STEM and cognate fields at all levels (technicians, scientists, engineers, etc.), 2) motivates students to pursue appropriate educational pathways to STEM related careers, and 3) provides a technology-rich experience that develops disciplinary knowledge, practices, and non-cognitive skills needed for STEM fields. In addition, with a focus on engaging Native American students across the region, the project will broaden participation of students underrepresented in STEM-related domains. This will occur through a focus on effective experiences that foster student competency, innovative curricular models, the role of business and workforce members, and engaging diverse underrepresented populations. The ultimate goal of the iCREATE project will be to positively impact the regional STEM workforce through the implementation of a new model of community engagement in STEM learning. To accomplish this goal, the project will be designed to meet the following objectives: 1. Test and refine a model of community engagement in STEM learning to engage students in finding solutions to authentic, community-based problems; 2. Engage community partners to design and implement a technology-rich bioscience course focusing on infectious disease and its data collection challenges; 3. Increase student motivation and interest in STEM learning and careers; and 4. Integrate sustainability into the project for a long lasting impact in the community. This bioscience course will be designed to engage students in an authentic problem important to the local community while drawing upon community resources. It will integrate the study of relevant bioscience topics and epidemiological principles with the technological project of designing and implementing a data collection system using computer and geospatial technologies software in order to monitor the transmission of influenza. Project partners include: The Center for Science Teaching and Learning at Northern Arizona University, Translational Genomics Research Institute North (TGen-North), Flagstaff STEM city, multiple regional health care providers and the Coconino Association for Vocations, Industry and Technology (CAVIAT), a local provider of career and technical education courses.