Connections in the Making: Elementary Students, Teachers, and STEM Professionals Integrating Science and Engineering to Design Community Solutions
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). This project will develop and study community-connected, integrated science and engineering curriculum units that leverage mobile maker space and digital notebook technologies to support diverse elementary students' science and engineering ideas, practices, and attitudes. Students will develop prototypes and share solutions to a design challenge rooted in their local community while exploring scientific explanations of related phenomena. The integrated units will be co-developed and enacted through a collaboration of science and engineering education researchers from two local universities, teachers and administrators from two local school districts, and STEM professionals from Boston's public transportation system. This collaboration will promote integrated learning experiences and will not only support disciplinary ideas and practices but also increase students' career interests and recognition of the transformative ways in which science and engineering can address challenges in their own communities.
A design-based research approach with an embedded curriculum comparison study will advance knowledge about mechanisms through which community and disciplinary connections support diverse elementary school student competence, motivation, and persistence in science and engineering. Data will be collected through three cycles of design involving 1,440 elementary students and 36 elementary teachers to investigate ways to improve the capacity to teach and learn through integrated science and engineering units in a community-connected way. Outcomes from this project will provide a model for curriculum development and implementation that will be unique in positioning teachers, district leaders, and STEM professionals as valued contributors in crafting and enacting integrated science and engineering curricula. It will also promote the utility of partnerships as vehicles for broadening participation of students and teachers from socioeconomically and culturally diverse public school districts. Beyond the impact on project participants, information from this study will be disseminated through pre-service teacher education courses, teacher induction networks, and in-service professional development. Project outputs, including curriculum units, curriculum development framework, and student work samples will be shared with educators both through school-district online portals and through university-hosted online collections of curriculum resources. The professional networks of the teachers, district leaders, and STEM professionals will be leveraged to raise awareness of these resources.