Teachers and Researchers Advancing Integrated Lessons in STEM
High school students in rural underserved populations often lack STEM role models, have deficiencies in career readiness, and have limited access to advanced technologies. Although students may be interested in STEM careers, they often lack place-based STEM learning experiences and advanced technology necessary to pursue information and communication technology (ICT) and STEM careers. The project, Teachers and Researchers Advancing Integrated Lessons in STEM (TRAILS 2.0), will expand, scale, and innovate a tested model of integrated STEM instruction and teacher professional development to enhance rural students’ learning of STEM content while generating interest in technology-rich and ICT careers. Over four years, TRAILS 2.0 will involve up to 90 in-service secondary biology or agriculture (life science) and engineering/technology education teachers to impact over 10,000 students in the eastern Chesapeake Bay (Maryland and Virginia), Southeastern Colorado, Northern New Mexico, and native Hawaiian-serving schools. TRAILS 2.0 will increase STEM teachers’ self-efficacy and expand and sustain their community of practice network. The project will also advance rural school students’ learning of STEM content and career awareness.
TRAILS 2.0’s goals for teachers are: 1) strengthen and increase STEM teachers' community of practice, and 2) increase integrated STEM teaching self-efficacy. TRAILS 2.0’s goals for students are to: 1) improve students’ capacity to pursue STEM careers by strengthening their 21st-century skills and 2) enhance socio-emotional outcomes (STEM career awareness, engagement in STEM learning, attitudes toward STEM learning, and STEM and ICT careers). TRAILS 2.0 will address Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) by blending science inquiry and engineering design to promote STEM practices and identify crosscutting concepts, which provides teachers with authentic STEM learning contexts they often struggle to locate on their own. TRAILS 2.0 will use local rural knowledge contexts, funds of knowledge, and Indigenous science knowledge (ISK) to create place-based STEM learning through a community of practice, 3D printing, and biomimicry engineering design that promote 21st-century skills. TRAILS 2.0 teacher professional development features a proven exemplar STEM lesson integrating biomimicry with engineering design called D-BAIT. In the D-BAIT unit, students research, design, and produce a biomimicry-inspired fishing lure that mimics aquatic insects or marine life using CAD and 3D printing to create testable prototypes. Teachers will integrate STEM content and promote 21st-century skills while engaging in the D-BAIT lesson as active learners, just like their students. Teacher teams then cogenerate and later implement their own place-based integrated STEM lessons using 3D printing and biomimicry engineering design challenges. TRAILS 2.0 will research place-based integrated STEM teacher professional development on teachers’ practices, teacher self-efficacy, and expanded community of practice networks, expanding the knowledge base in STEM education. TRAILS 2.0 will also establish evidence of impact on students’ socio-emotional outcomes, 21st-century skills, and STEM career awareness through multiple place-based and ISK STEM learning experiences, exposure to local STEM professionals, and collaboration with peers. This project is funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts and processes contributing to increasing students' knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.