Subproject: Participant Support Costs for Collaborative Research: Learning in Places: PK-5+ Field Based Science Education Across Schools, Families, and Communities

Project: Research project

Project Details


Overview. This 5-year, level 3, design and development project focuses primarily on the learning strand (although includes teaching), and proposes to design, implement and study a model of equity centered, NGSS aligned, field based science education for prek-5 students that aims to expand students’ understanding of nature-culture relations towards just, sustainable, and culturally thriving forms of life. The project addresses life science and earth/space science domains, but will connect with literacy and social studies. The project will build with and expand on the Learning in Places (LiP) seasonal storyline model (Bang, et al, 2020), which focuses on cycles of inquiry in and around children’s schools and communities – whether they are in dense urban communities or rural communities – that includes place-based wonderings, the development of “should we” questions, or questions that require ethical deliberation and decision-making about socio-ecological phenomena and motivate scientific investigations and modeling. In this project we will expand and refine the LiP model to PK-5, deliberately engage social studies, civics and literacy, and scale the model to multiple socio-ecological geographies. Our project is a partnership between Northwestern University, University of Washington Bothell, the Louisiana Department of Education, the Michigan Mathematics and Science Centers Network, and the Spokane Tribe in eastern Washington. There are four main objectives that guide this proposed project: 1) Develop and refine a model of equity centered field based science education for prek-5 that engages students in complex socio-ecological systems reasoning and sustainable, ethical decision-making. This includes incorporating literacy, civics, and social studies learning in ways that enhance science learning in the model and include science- specific models of family engagement in ways that transform relations between educators, families, and students’ science learning. 2) Develop curricular materials that support educator learning and implementation of robust equity centered field based science education. 3) Study students’ learning, reasoning and decision making about complex socio-ecological systems across grade levels and geographies. Further, examine the ways in which interdisciplinarity shapes students’ learning and change. 4) Study classroom, field based, and family based implementations to uncover effective practice and challenges for equitable, rigorous field based science learning. Intellectual Merit. This project could break new ground in preparing teachers and learners to meet the socio-ecological demands of the 21st century and is aligned with the shifting policy-level focus towards greater inclusion of field-based sciences in pK-12 education. This shift has important implications for how science learning is structured and connected across disciplines; increasing students’ abilities to engage in observation, inference, and ultimately decision-making (NRC, 2012; Eberbach & Crowley, 2009; Taylor, 2005). While the opportunity is clear, many science curricula, best practices, and educators have not yet deeply engaged with this shift and its implications in science teaching and learning. Further, much of science learning is not geared towards deep ethical engagement with our most pressing issues (e.g. food security). This project works to build science teaching and learning at the edges of science, society, and human learning. Broader Impacts. There is yet to be developed a comprehensive, systematic model for engaging students
Effective start/end date7/1/226/30/27


  • National Science Foundation (DRL-2201253)


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