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Students Discover Profile


Students Discover: Improving Middle School STEM Outcomes through Scaling Citizen Science Projects

Overview:

This Community Enterprise for STEM Learning Math and Science Partnership, entitled Students Discover and led by North Carolina State University (NCSU), highlights citizen science through the collection and analysis of data by students for use by professional scientists. The project teams NCSU with core partners North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and three school districts: Alamance-Burlington School System, Pender County Schools and Wake County Public School System, to target improving Middle School STEM education through implementing hands-on "real-science" in the classroom. Typically, when students "do" science, they most often repeat experiments and projects that reveal known truths. A growing body of research in STEM learning has taken the tact that by involving the public in helping to discover the science deepens their understanding of the scientific concepts.


The modules developed within the Students Discover project will provide a framework within which many scientists can bring the science they do to classrooms in order to enhance their work, increase student learning and create opportunities for students to participate in real discoveries. To develop these modules, the project is bringing exemplary North Carolina teachers to the Nature Research Center at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences to work with scientists and a design team. Once the modules are developed, teachers from across North Carolina come to the Nature Research Center to work on and prepare to use these modules in their classrooms, statewide.


The three core partner school systems conduct summer programs for students tied to the science curriculum and include a series of Students Discover course modules. These students and their families are engaged in additional programing throughout the year. The students, teachers and parents using the modules will become part of a community of collaborators who collectively help to make new discoveries - whether they are of new species, phenomena or observations - that would otherwise be impossible.


The project also includes a research component that is examining a process for moving innovations from more ideal classroom settings to a variety of schools and community-based settings where conditions for success may be less favorable. A key aspect for the broader community is the research identifying the conditions and elements of modules and science that best translate to other settings and adapt the approach so as to build on those factors that most effectively alter learning outcomes and spread class to class and region to region.


The project involves scientists in every phase. Initially, the scientists at North Carolina State University and in the Nature Research Center lead the implementation and development. As the project develops, it capitalizes on broad interest among faculty in K-12 education to forge many new links between scientists, educators and students. Those links and the project's modules help students and scientists make new discoveries together.