Socio-Environmental Science Investigations Using the Geospatial Curriculum Approach with Web Geospatial Information Systems
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 producing empirical findings and/or research tools that contribute to knowledge about which models and interventions with K-12 students and teachers are most likely to increase capacity in the STEM and STEM-cognate intensive workforce of the future.
This project will develop, implement, and evaluate a series of innovative socio-environmental science investigations (SESI) using a geospatial curriculum approach with STEM-related mentoring that will provide economically disadvantaged students in the 9th grade of the Building 21 school in Allentown, PA with technology-rich geospatial learning experiences to develop STEM-related skills. The project will focus on social issues related to environmental science. This project uses a design partnership among Lehigh University natural science professors, social science professors, education professors, the STEM Valley Mentoring Coalition, Building 21 science and social studies school teachers, the Allentown city government, and PPL Corporation to develop geospatial investigations with Web GIS (Geospatial Information Systems) that will prepare students with skills, and career awareness, to motivate them to pursue appropriate education pathways for STEM-related occupations.
Despite the accelerating growth in geospatial industries and congruence across STEM, few school-based programs integrate geospatial technology within their curriculum, and even fewer incorporate STEM-related mentoring to promote interests and aspirations in related occupations. The project will contribute to educational research infrastructure by producing a series of instruments to measure the development of STEM-related skills in the context of SESI investigations, students' perceptions of mentoring experience, STEM career motivation, and STEM interest for use with high school students who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM-related disciplines and careers. The project also promotes a unique community-based partnership with university scientists, social scientists, educators, a science center, and STEM mentors that involve high school students in the research and decision-making process about local environmental problems. The learning activities will provide opportunities for students to collaborate, seek evidence, problem-solve, master technology, develop geospatial thinking and reasoning skills, and practice communication skills that are essential for the STEM workplace. The project will enable researchers to (1) examine how SESI and mentoring increases students' interest in STEM and their motivation to pursue STEM-related careers, and (2) analyze how the geospatial curriculum approach when combined with STEM-related mentoring can improve STEM-related skills with students under-represented in STEM.