Project Profile

A Model Program to Engage Students in Authentic, Technology-Infused Coastal Research and Monitoring: Building Student Data Literacy and Career Competency through Partnership


The project will introduce and investigate an innovative model for using authentic community-relevant research to deepen students' STEM knowledge and skills, while building strong community connections between Maine's coastal school districts and their communities. The project will involve teachers and administrators, STEM and STEM education faculty, and business leaders and other community members in a research practice partnership. The partnership will support middle school and high school students in authentic science research experiences, including coastal monitoring and investigations of local changes in ocean water properties. Data from these studies will inform community policy decisions and strategic planning. Through the proposed work, teachers and their students will expand their awareness and understanding of local career opportunities where STEM knowledge and experience, including computing, computational thinking, and technology, are required. A diverse group of business and non-profit partners will be involved in STEM classes and career competency development in meaningful ways, such as mentoring, job shadowing, and internships, preparing students for STEM careers using technology, computing, collaboration, and communication. The project will engage 20 teachers from multiple school districts, who will become peer guides for future teachers to build stronger connections between communities and their schools using this model. The project will impact at least 2500 students from economically-challenged, rural Maine communities, many of whom will be the first in their family to attend college.

Through collaborative summer institutes and school-year work sessions, partners will develop and disseminate modules that use marine sciences examples and data for use in courses including, but not limited to, science, social studies, mathematics, and statistics. The model and lessons learned will be transferable to other partnerships that aim to broaden participation in STEM in rural communities and more deeply engage students through community-relevant research using technology and computing. Project research will generate an evidence-based model of professional learning and curricular supports for teachers to guide technology-infused, multi-disciplinary student research. Pre- and post-survey data will be collected from the students of participating teachers to see how the community relevance, marine sciences emphasis, and research involvement impact students' learning, engagement, and attitudes toward STEM and STEM careers. Student data will be disaggregated by gender and, where possible, by racial and ethnic groups to better understand how to make STEM education inclusive, exciting, and valuable for all. The model and knowledge gained from the project’s research and evaluation will be disseminated to the STEM and STEM education research communities, and to practitioners and other stakeholders, both locally and nationally.

This project is funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts and processes contributing to increasing students' knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.


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Principal Investigator(s)


Award Number
Project Duration
2022 - 2026
Developing and Testing Innovations (DTI)
University of Maine, Orono, ME
Project Work State
Target Gradespan(s)
Middle school (6-8)
High school (9-12)
Project Setting(s)
Formal Education
Geographic Location(s)
Project Status
Computer and informational technology science
Environmental sciences
Life sciences
Mathematical sciences
Physics and astronomy
Target Participants
Youth / students