Promoting Student Interest in Science and Science Careers through a Scalable Place-Based Environmental Educational Program at a Public Aquarium
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 developing and testing a place-based STEM enrichment program for fifth graders in a large urban school district. The Detroit Public Schools will collaborate with the Belle Island Aquarium to develop a field-trip program that will enrich learning in biology, with cross-curricular impacts on chemistry, physics, business, literacy and the arts. The project will include teacher professional development opportunities and will promote student interests in careers of regional significance associated with fisheries, wildlife, habitat restoration, and the aquatic sciences. Scientists and educators at the aquarium will work together with teachers in preparing for field trips and developing place-based curriculum materials with real world examples of phenomena and concepts being studied. A project goal is to develop self-sustaining Communities of Learning comprising scientists, teachers, students, and community members to establish a self-sustaining program.
The project will engage approximately 2,300 students and 120 schoolteachers over a three-year period, and the research plan will employ a pretest-posttest, switching replications quasi-experimental design with teachers being randomly assigned to three cohorts of treatment groups. Over the 3-year course of the project, each cohort of teachers will participate in the treatment being examined. Teacher attitudes and behaviors will be assessed each year of the project, and student attitudes, knowledge, and behavior will be assessed each year. Science career interest and knowledge will also be assessed annually. A series of classroom observations, focus groups, and surveys will be used to validate collected data and provide feedback for the program development process. The research goal of the project is to investigate the effects of the field trip program and its components on student attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors, and the effects of the teacher professional development activities on teacher classroom practices, confidence in teaching science, and attitudes toward teacher science.