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Corona de Tucson, NY, United States

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: MSP-OTHER AWARDS | Award Amount: 290.63K | Year: 2013

The New York Hall of Science proposes a two-pronged workshop project that will: (1) conduct a study of and develop a draft report on the topic of STEM badges including conceptualizations, rationale, systems, key contributors and challenges and opportunities for STEM-related badges; and (2) conduct a workshop drawn from a wide range of experts to provide critical feedback on the report. An advisory board will guide and evaluate the work.

Learning increasingly takes place across a wide spectrum of institutions and contexts, through different platforms and environments, and is often incentivized by badge reward systems. There is a concomitant need to understand and make explicit the nature and criteria used, the kinds of accomplishments individuals are expected to realize, and the ways that badges are interpreted by conventional credentialing bodies, such as K-12 educational systems and institutions of higher education. The workshop creates an opportunity for a divrse group of individuals at the forefront of badges to inform each others efforts. The report that is generated will be available to a broad audience of practitoners, developers and researchers involved in STEM education in both formal and informal sectors as well as to individuals involved in setting STEM education policy.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: REAL | Award Amount: 1.29M | Year: 2011

Project based learning has received increasing attention in recent years and has come into more wide-spread use. One expectation of this instructional approach is that it promotes engagement via active learning and student interaction with peers. However, some research has shown that this is not the case. This proposal will address this quandary by empirically testing the extent to which adding specific interactive and competition-based game elements to a genetics project-based science curriculum can increase engagement and improve other affective dimensions of science learning---particularly for students from underrepresented groups.

Researchers from the New York Hall of Science, the Concord Consortium, and Michigan State University will do this by modifying the Geniverse curriculum. They will add (1) a strong story line narrative, (2) a goal attainment stimulus, and (3) a team competition feature. Each modification will be tested as an experimental condition. Data will be collected from ninth-graders, many from underrepresented populations, using instruments that measure motivation, cognitive-emotional engagement, and learning.

This research has the potential to advance our understanding of project based curricula, gaming, and the melding of the two, both from the point of view of practice and knowledge building. It directly addresses the proposition that games increase motivation and thus learning. The research is unusual in that it will blend curriculum and game; formal and informal learning environments. If successful, outcomes of this project could be adopted in other project based curricula. The project will be evaluated through an advisory committee, including experts in genetics, the learning sciences, cognitive science, and gaming. The dissemination plan includes publishing in peer-reviewed literature, the distribution of the game, and professional development via the New York Hall of Sciences network of teachers and other educational practitioners.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: STEM + Computing (STEM+C) Part | Award Amount: 1.21M | Year: 2015

The Computational Thinking in Ecosystems (CT-E) project is funded by the STEM+Computing Partnership (STEM+C) program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the integration of computing in STEM teaching and learning. The project is a collaboration between the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI), Columbia Universitys Center for International Earth Science Information Network, and Design I/O. It will address the need for improved data, modeling and computational literacy in young people through development and testing of a portable, computer-based simulation of interactions that occur within ecosystems and between coupled natural and human systems; computational thinking skills are required to advance farther in the simulation. On a tablet computer at NYSCI, each participant will receive a set of virtual cards that require them to enter a computer command, routine or algorithm to control the behavior of animals within a simulated ecosystem. As participants explore the animals simulated habitat, they will learn increasingly more complex strategies needed for the animals survival, will use similar computational ideas and skills that ecologists use to model complex, dynamic ecological systems, and will respond to the effects of the ecosystem changes that they and other participants elicit through interaction with the simulated environment. Research on this approach to understanding interactions among species within biological systems through integration of computing has potential to advance knowledge. Researchers will study how simulations that are similar to popular collectable card game formats can improve computational thinking and better prepare STEM learners to take an interest in, and advance knowledge in, the field of environmental science as their academic and career aspirations evolve. The project will also design and develop a practical approach to programing complex models, and develop skills in communities of young people to exercise agency in learning about modeling and acting within complex systems; deepening learning in young people about how to work toward sustainable solutions, solve complex engineering problems and be better prepared to address the challenges of a complex, global society.

Computational Thinking in the Ecosystems (CT-E) will use a design-based study to prototype and test this novel, tablet-based collectable card game-like intervention to develop innovative practices in middle school science. Through this approach, some of the most significant challenges to teaching practice in the Next Generation Science Standards will be addressed, through infusing computational thinking into life science learning. CT-E will develop a tablet-based simulation representing six dynamic, interconnected ecosystems in which students control the behaviors of creatures to intervene in habitats to accomplish goals and respond to changes in the health of their habitat and the ecosystems of which they are a part. Behaviors of creatures in the simulation are controlled through the virtual collectable cards, with each representing a computational process (such as sequences, loops, variables, conditionals and events). Gameplay involves individual players choosing a creature and habitat, formulating strategies and programming that creature with tactics in that habitat (such as finding food, digging in the ground, diverting water, or removing or planting vegetation) to navigate that habitat and survive. Habitats chosen by the participant are part of particular kinds of biomes (such as desert, rain forest, marshlands and plains) that have their own characteristic flora, fauna, and climate. Because the environments represent complex dynamic interconnected environmental models, participants are challenged to explore how these models work, and test hypotheses about how the environment will respond to their creatures interventions; but also to the creatures of other players, since multiple participants can collaborate or compete similar to commercially available collectable card games (e.g., Magic and Yu-Go-Oh!). NYSCI will conduct participatory design based research to determine impacts on structured and unstructured learning settings and whether it overcomes barriers to learning complex environmental science.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ITEST | Award Amount: 1.20M | Year: 2013

The Innovation Institute: From Problem to Product (I2) takes high school students through the entire process of inventing a device, software or other technology. This proposal makes use of a Makerspace at the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI), which is located in a community with a high proportion of both immigrant and low-income residents. I2 builds on NYSCI experience with the Maker movement and leverages its Explainer program (where high school students who work as exhibit or program facilitators) by providing: 1) a product prototype/design program for high school Explainers and 2) afterschool and Saturday activities for middle school students, with mentoring provided by the Explainers. It will serve a total of 60 high school students (20 in each cohort) and 1000 elementary and middle school students.

Using a quasi-experimental design, the project evaluation addresses these questions:
1. Does engaging in the process from design to product, emphasizing entrepreneurship, engineering, and the use of technology, lead to Explainers: Deeper learning and 21st century skills?; STEM and ICT knowledge, skills, dispositions?; and Persistence in the STEM workforce?
2. Does transferring the learning to younger students lead to deeper learning on the part of the Explainers (transfer and self-regulated learning), increased knowledge of the engineering process, and increased knowledge and skills in using technologies?
3. Does participating in design-based activities increase middle and elementary students positive attitudes, engagement and interest in STEM and STEM careers and lead to the perception of Explainers as role models?

The project will disseminate a replication handbook for scaling up the model and project evaluation reports. Project results will be further disseminated through articles submitted to peer-reviewed academic journals, workshops presented at museum conferences, and articles in other publications such as Make Magazine, a publication that targets those in the Maker movement.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Cyberlearn & Future Learn Tech | Award Amount: 1.35M | Year: 2012

This project brings together an interdisciplinary team of learning science researchers, game designers, game theory researchers, and environmental scientists to engage diverse audiences in the science of sustainability and sustainable development. Taking its inspiration from Buckminster Fullers World Game - conceived nearly fifty years ago as a tool to facilitate a comprehensive, participatory approach to addressing the problems of the world - the team is developing, testing, and delivering a real-time, collaborative environment using a distributed, technology-enhanced, game-based architecture to enable groups of individuals to explore the interconnected nature of the economic, social and environmental factors that influence sustainability. The intellectual merit of the project has two key dimensions. First, by making visualizations of scientific data available in public spaces for groups of informal learners, the investigators seek to understand the nature of the resulting participatory engagement with data, giving particular attention to discovering design principles that influence the effectiveness of the visualizations. Second, the investigators are creating innovative interfaces that make computers invisible and provide alternative tactile, social, and spatially distributed ways to interact with the underlying data, and then studying how such interfaces promote generative and cooperative thinking about sustainability issues. The project is exercising its broader impacts through its contribution to the fields general understanding of the ways in which social, highly participatory environments support deeper and more reflective learning about complex multivariate data. Moreover, the research team is advancing the public understanding of science in general, and sustainability and environmental science in particular.

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