Project Profile

Kids as Urban Scientists: Mapping the Biodiversity of the Philadelphia Promise Zone


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 providing immersive field experiences for inner-city students from groups underrepresented in STEM fields. Upper elementary students will use digital data collection tools to map biodiversity in local neighborhoods, and the project will interweave the biodiversity activities with career awareness and mentoring opportunities. Digital badging will be used to certify learning accomplishments and provide recognition for students and teachers engaged in the project. The project consists of three components: a) Development of a curriculum module focusing on biodiversity for use in school or in out-of-school learning environments; b) Integration of career awareness and mentoring activities by college science faculty or students who will work with students during the biodiversity mapping activities; and c) Professional development opportunities for schoolteachers and out-of-school educators.

The project will engage 400 inner-city students in grades 4-6 along with 80 teachers and out-of-school-time (OST) educators from the Philadelphia Promise Zone, one of the highest poverty areas in the country. The curriculum modules for each grade will be designed for use in either a school classroom or an OST setting, and the disciplinary content will be aligned with relevant disciplinary core ideas and science practices of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The curriculum modules at each grade level will include classroom learning activities, a field component for data collection, and a final sessions where teams of students present their findings through development of a poster, a video, or some other visual representation. A mixed-methods research approach will be used to seek findings related to three research questions: a) What coherent set of experiences effectively support fourth, fifth and sixth grade students? knowledge development (e.g., biodiversity content knowledge blended with science practices), motivation and career awareness about STEM-related work and jobs of today and the future? b) What professional development models and recognition systems can effectively engage teachers and OST providers in demonstrating Next Generation Science knowledge, pedagogy, and career awareness for fourth through sixth grade students? and c) How effective is the activity of Promise Zone fourth-sixth grade students as information providers and Urban Scientists interacting with scientist mentors towards increasing career awareness and understanding characteristics of STEM work?


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