Impact of Environmental Power Monitoring Activities on Middle School Student Perceptions of STEM
Middle school is a crucial stage in student development as students prepare for a fast changing future. The science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills that students acquire in middle school lay the foundation for a successful career in STEM. Moreover, most STEM occupations require competencies in science, math and logical thinking prior to engagement in problem solving. Therefore, it is vital to prepare and develop interest in middle school students to participate in the future STEM workforce. This study examines the impact of hands-on authentic projects on middle school students’ STEM content knowledge and perceptions. The participants for the study were 246 middle school students (Grades 6, 7, and 8) from six schools in the states of Texas, Louisiana, Maine and Vermont in the United States (U.S.). Employing a quasiexperimental design, the students who participated in the project activities were measured on their STEM knowledge and dispositions before and after project participation. The findings indicate that middle school students who participated in standby power monitoring activities not only reported gains in their STEM content knowledge, but also showed an improvement in their creative tendencies and their perceptions about STEM subjects and careers. This increase in STEM perceptions was more pronounced for female middle school students than for male students. The results of the study suggest that carefully designed project based activities that encourage inquiry-based learning can be very effective at the middle school level.