Biomechanics to Offer Diverse Young Minds Opportunities to Develop, Explore, and Learn STEM
More than 60 educators and 120 youth will participate in an intensive curriculum design, implementation, refinement and research project that strives to integrate Biomechanics into elementary science for the learning of interdisciplinary STEM Topics.
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 preparing and interesting high achieving middle school students for advanced math courses in high school and eventually in engineering careers. This University of Nebraska at Omaha project, Biomechanics to Offer Diverse Young Minds Opportunities to Develop, Explore, and Learn STEM (BODYMODELS) will investigate a learning model that leverages the technology-rich and interdisciplinary context of biomechanics to enhance understanding of and interest in STEM occupations among students in grades 3-6. The project will provide a positive learning experience in using biomechanics to teach STEM that will lead to more positive perceptions about STEM among participating teachers and students. The learning experience in the project would have a strong future impact on STEM education in and around Omaha. The project will directly impact an estimated 1,500 youth, most of whom reside in the diverse Omaha Public Schools district. In addition, the project will help engage elementary teachers in the Omaha Citywide STEM Ecosystem, establishing long-term professional networks to support their teaching of STEM after the project period. The successful implementation of the BODYMODELS project will result in standards-based and culturally responsive curricular resources that can easily be adapted by elementary teachers across the country to reach students in diverse school contexts. The project team will also pilot a graduate biomechanics course for teachers in elementary education programs for possible replication by other universities.
The overarching goal of the BODYMODELS project is to use biomechanics as a context for increasing awareness of, interest in, and capability to participate in STEM education pathways among a diverse population of 3rd-6th grade students in urban Omaha. The project objectives are: 1) Train a cohort of 3rd-6th grade in-service teachers to become knowledgeable and effective STEM instructors who can confidently integrate technology enhanced biomechanics lessons into their school's STEM disciplines through learning core biomechanics concepts and culturally responsive, inquiry-based learning (IBL) strategies. 2) Empower the 3rd-6th grade teachers by helping them develop and pilot biomechanics lesson modules, hands-on activities, instructional methods, and personal implementation plans (PIPs) to enhance interdisciplinary, culturally responsive, and technology-enhanced STEM education at their schools. 3) Partner with organizations in the Omaha Citywide STEM Ecosystem to engage professionals in biomechanics-related fields to assist teachers in developing and refining their PIPs to include activities that are motivating to students, such as classroom visits from STEM professionals and/or field trips to STEM-related organizations. 4) Investigate the impact of the biomechanics intervention on teachers' and students' confidence in teaching and learning STEM concepts and their attitudes toward the STEM disciplines, as well as on student STEM content knowledge, with a focus on refining the instructional model to facilitate its adaptation and adoption in elementary STEM curricula nationwide. The project will develop and investigate the utility of a learning model that leverages the interdisciplinary and technology-rich context of biomechanics to teach cross-cutting STEM concepts to students in grades 3-6 and to engage students in using emerging technologies to conduct inquiry-based experiments. This new learning model addresses two key challenges: 1) expanding student interest in STEM careers by engaging them in inquiry-based activities that are relevant to them and 2) helping teachers customize IBL lesson modules to account for differences in teachers' biomechanics experiences, students' backgrounds, school districts, and course objectives. Students will be assessed to determine if the program positively impacts their attitudes towards, interest in, and motivation to pursue STEM careers as well as their performance on statewide science and mathematics assessment tests. The project will advance the understanding of how to offer IBL using biomechanics in a variety of elementary school contexts.