Project Profile

Enhancing Minority Middle School Student Knowledge, Literacy, and Motivation in STEM Using Contextualized Agricultural Life Science Learning Experiences


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 exploring how coherent experiences can support urban student competency and interest in STEM and how related industry workforce and community members can participate in increasing student and teacher interest in, and awareness of, local and regional STEM career opportunities. To achieve this, researchers will use a design based research approach to developing and providing an extensive professional development to 15 school teachers and engage 250 underrepresented inner-city 4th-6th grade students with agricultural life sciences experiences that connect to real issues in food science, health, environment, and energy. Researchers will use a design based research approach to creating the teacher professional development and new curriculum. Project deliverables include: 1) the design, field-testing, and implementation of four open-ended Model-Eliciting-Activities (MEAs) which connect students to their community through problem-based experiences in agricultural life science contexts; 2) teacher professional development grounded in the principles of culturally relevant pedagogy and contextualized inquiry; and 3) a compelling mentoring program that connects participating youth with locally and regionally relevant STEM careers through industry, community, and university partnerships.

This holistic approach to curriculum development, teacher professional development, and mentor supported student engagement could serve as a model for how to prepare students academically for future STEM academic and career paths. In particular, the Youth Mentoring Program, in which STEM-related community, industry, and university partners serve as mentors to participating students (as part of the enactment of MEAs), engages students in problem contextualization, model building, and communication. These mentors will also help increase student awareness of local STEM careers and employment, as well as regional education resources.


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Award Number
Project Duration
2016 - 2019
Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
Project Work State
Target Gradespan(s)
Elementary school (K-5)
Middle school (6-8)
Project Setting(s)
Formal Education
Geographic Location(s)
Project Status
Additional Disciplines
Bioscience - general
Additional Target Participants
English Learners
Students eligible for Free/reduced price lunch
Black or African American
Hispanic or Latino