Water SCIENCE: Supporting Collaborative Inquiry, Engineering, and Career Exploration with Water
As part of an overall strategy to develop understandings of best practice factors, contexts and processes contributing to K-12 students' motivation and participation in STEM, the ITEST Program funds foundational and applied research projects that build student awareness of STEM and STEM-related careers. This ITEST Strategies project, Supporting Collaborative Inquiry, Engineering, and Career Exploration with Water (Water SCIENCE), engages middle school students in project-based learning around their community's water resources. Through the innovative use of technology the project enables data sharing among schools in different parts of the country and provides a forum for the development of a professional learning community for teachers. The project turns tablet computers now found in secondary schools into mobile science labs, harnessing the built-in cameras for chemical and visual analysis of water samples.
A total of 30 middle school science teachers from diverse districts in southern Arizona, southeastern Pennsylvania, and Eastern Massachusetts are participating serving more than 2000 middle school students over the three-year project. Students will use an innovative mobile lab to perform water quality analysis and aggregate the results on an existing data sharing platform. In consultation with university mentors and stem professionals, students design and conduct classroom engineering projects that model real-world technologies for improving water quality. Virtual mentoring sessions provide opportunities for students to ask questions of STEM professionals and learn about careers in environmental science and conservation. As a culminating experience students engage in a role-playing exercise involving a simulated water emergency. Teachers will receive over 40 hours of professional development as well as a classroom set of hands-on science and engineering materials undergraduate and graduate students will participate as mentors.
A systematic investigation of the impact of integrating purposefully designed inquiry, engineering, and career orientation activities into science instruction at the middle school level will be conducted. Student outcomes explored include stem career awareness and interests, stem content knowledge, and the development of supportive mentoring relationships with university students and stem professionals. Comprehensive data will be collected using a variety of research instruments and analyzed both statistically and qualitatively.
This project team is comprised of specialists in K-12 curriculum and educational technology development (Concord Consortium), environmental sustainability (Arizona State University), freshwater science and conservation (Stroud Water Resource Center), and hands-on engineering education (Machine Science, Inc.). The Water SCIENCE project helps advance NSF's goal of broadening participation and diversifying the STEM workforce.