of Minnesota, Minnesota, United States
of Minnesota, Minnesota, United States

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Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: IUSE | Award Amount: 115.19K | Year: 2016

While the term failure brings to mind negative associations, there is a current focus on failure as a driver of innovation and development in many professional fields. It is also emerging from prior research that for STEM professionals and educators, failure plays an important role in designing and making to increase learning, persistence and other noncognitive skills such as self-efficacy and independence. By investigating how youth and educators attend to moments of failure, how they interpret what this means, and how they respond, we will be better able to understand the dynamics of each part of the experience. The research team will be working with youth from urban, suburban and rural settings, students from Title I schools or who qualify for free/reduced-price lunches, those from racial and ethnic minority groups, as well as students who are learning English as a second language. These youth are from groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM and in making, and research indicates they are more likely to experience negative outcomes when they experience failure.

The intellectual merit of this project centers on establishing a baseline understanding of how failure in making is triggered and experienced by youth, what role educators play in the process, and what can be done to increase persistence and learning, rather than failure being an end-state. The research team will investigate these issues through the use of qualitative and quantitative research methods. In particular, the team will design and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions on increasing the abilities of youth and educators in noticing and responding to failures and increasing positive (e.g., resilience) outcomes. Research sites are selected because they will allow collection of data on youth from a wide range of backgrounds. The research team will also work to test and revise their hypothesized model of the influence of factors on persistence through failures in making. This project is a part of NSFs Maker Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) portfolio (NSF 15-086), a collaborative investment of Directorates for Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE), Education and Human Resources (EHR) and Engineering (ENG).

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Integrative Ecologi Physiology | Award Amount: 118.00K | Year: 2013

A central challenge facing contemporary biology is to understand how organisms adapt to changing environments. This research focuses on whether predictions of microevolutionary shifts in the physiology of animal populations can be based on ecosystem-level information. Answers to such questions should foster better forecasting models of global environmental change and inform effective management. Using a unique model organism, Daphnia, a small crustacean that lives in lakes and produces resting eggs that can lay dormant in sediments for centuries, the Principal Investigators (PIs) have been able to directly observe the evolutionary consequences of man-made change in a natural population.

In this project, the PIs will elucidate the precise mechanisms that underlie observed evolutionary shifts coinciding with changes in key environmental parameters such as phosphorus (P) loading history (i.e., nutrient enrichment that affects water quality). Specifically, they will use cutting-edge paleolimnological tools to examine lake-bottom sediments to precisely reconstruct erstwhile environments reflective of pre- and post-European settlement, and use that information to test the performance of ancient and extant Daphnia genotypes to assess anthropogenic impacts. Furthermore, they will couple experimental evolution, and high throughput genomics methods to identify the genes that underlie such evolutionary shifts. The performance of these genes in predicting responses to nutrient enrichment (i.e., eutrophication) in a different lake will also be assessed.

The PIs will continue to recruit students from underrepresented groups at various levels (high-school, undergraduate, and graduate). This project will train a postdoctoral fellow, three graduate research students, a museum intern, three undergraduate research assistants, and a high school intern. The genomic information generated from the proposed experiments will be made available to the scientific community via www.wFleabase.org as soon as possible, while the Daphnia clone bank generated during this project will be shared after the duration of the grant. Moreover, results from this study are relevant to issues of water quality and environmental change (particularly from paleolimnological assays), and the PIs will continue to share data with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for outreach to lake managers and the general public. In partnership with the Science Museum of Minnesota, the project will be part of the NSF-sponsored award-winning www.sciencebuzz.org online exhibits that blend up-to-the-minute science news (via RSS technology) with traditional museum interactive experiences, reaching potentially 500,000-800,000 individuals per year. The PIs will provide content on global environmental change, particularly related to lakes, and the ability of aquatic organisms to adapt to changing conditions. Finally, this work contributes to and benefits from federally-funded resources such as the Daphnia Genomics Consortium and the National Lacustrine Core Facility.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: RES ON GENDER IN SCI & ENGINE | Award Amount: 524.72K | Year: 2012

Intellectual Merit: The Science Museum of Minnesota and Purdue Universitys Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning are conducting a study within out-of-school contexts that will explore gender differences in the development of engineering interest and understanding in children between the ages of 4 and 11. During the study, the researchers will closely examine three specific informal environments: a pre-school program where parents and children can engage with engineering focused activity, a family-oriented engineering event for elementary students and their parents, and an engineering exhibit within a science museum. These settings, each featuring a high level of parent-child interaction, have been intentionally chosen due to an emerging trend in engineering education research that identifies the parent as playing a crucial role in girls decisions regarding engineering careers. The project will examine the ways in which engineering practices (such as the iterative design, build, and test cycle) impact the development of interest and understanding. The study focuses on studying children during the critical years before middle school, when girls have been shown to have significantly lower levels of interest in engineering than boys.

Broader Impacts: Investigating the processes by which girls develop early interest and understanding in engineering is essential to addressing the persistent underrepresentation of women in engineering fields. Informal learning experiences, such as interactions in the home, visits to museums, and other everyday encounters, represent a rich array of settings for the development of engineering interest that have been minimally researched. The project will share results from the study through traditional academic channels, and also through parent and practitioner workshops for informal science educators that disseminate useful practices and techniques for engaging girls in engineering at a young age. In addition, the partnership between the Science Museum of Minnesota and Purdue University creates a strong foundation for subsequent collaborative projects focused on researching informal engineering education. The project has the potential to significantly impact the ways in which girls begin to cultivate a lifelong interest in engineering, which may ultimately encourage more women to pursue engineering careers in the future.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 349.79K | Year: 2011

There is a need at NSF and in the field for a set of guidelines that would direct the evaluation process for projects whose purpose is to develop a more diverse STEM workforce. The purpose of this project is to create guidelines that would be used by PIs and proposal developers to write effective evaluation plans in their proposals; by evaluators to plan, implement and conduct rigorous project evaluations; and by Program Officers and reviewers to judge the merits of evaluation sections of proposals or to provide guidance for prospective or current projects. comprehensive guide, population-focused tip sheets, interactive internet materials and a wiki about conducting evaluations with diverse populations including considerations centering on gender, race/ethnicity, and disabilities. Consideration is also given to the setting of the evaluation (e.g., institutional type, program type). The materials will include information about designing, implementing and assess the quality of projects and activities that focus on broaden participation in STEM education, especially those targeting post-high school participants. The final products will be unique because they will specifically address evaluation issues related to diverse populations such as under represented minoritis, females, individuals with disabilities, and individuals in multiple categories.

This project builds on previous NSF-funded work by the PIs individually and together. In addition, several specific NSF-funded or developed documents have led the way in formulating the idea and design for this project. Examples are the Framework for Evaluating Impacts of Broadening Participation Projects: A Report from a National Science Foundation Workshop, co edited by Beatriz Chu Clewell and Norman Fortenberry under Contract Number GS-10F-0482P by the Division of Research on Learning, the Indigenous Evaluation Framework Report by LaFrance and Nichols (Grant 0438720), and the Mixed Methods User-Friendly Handbook which was updated in 2010 (Contract REC 99-12175). The specific objectives of the project delineate the plan for the project, including a needs assessment with stakeholder groups, a literature review, the development and beta testing of materials, revision and field testing, and dissemination. The project includes an Advisory Board that has the expertise to provide important input to the process. The project also includes an external, independent evaluator and an evaluation plan that considers the progress and outcomes of the project.

This project is a unique contribution to the fields of evaluation, broadening participation, and STEM education.

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

Bits-2-Bites is a strategies project that will engage middle school and high school students in learning to apply computational thinking and computer based tools to address STEM related community issues. Participants will learn about the biology and chemistry of food science, nutrition, food production, environmental sustainability, and how they relate to relevant community health issues such as the proliferation of obesity and diabetes. Participants will learn how to apply process skills including design, analysis, and troubleshooting to complete a service learning project based on sustainable agriculture. Initial skill building projects for both middle and high school youth will focus on finding comfort with and interest in computer programming, using programming languages such as Scratch and C++.

The Science Museum of Minnesotas Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center (KAYSC) will develop two 12-member high school crews (grades 9-12) as participants in the project who each will receive 350-400 contact hours of instruction per year by museum staff. By year 3, participants who have completed two years will engage in self-directed projects. They will also serve as teaching assistants for those who will have started in years 2 and 3. In addition, four 12- 15 member volunteer teams composed of 7th and 8th graders at four St. Paul middle schools will use the Bits-2-Bites curriculum units that the high school students use to learn about computing focusing on computational thinking and tools.

The structure and design of the program are based on youth development and service learning practices that emphasize: participation that focuses on depth, continued skill development, and long-term involvement, rather than occasional short bursts of activity; teams of youth who work closely with one or more adult museum staff member and come into regular contact with other museum staff, educators and STEM mentors; progression from skill building to skill application through hands-on projects that allow them to make positive contributions to their communities; opportunities to take on greater leadership and responsibility; individual and as a group reflection; opportunities to build awareness of community issues and needs, and to share skills and knowledge with peers, younger children, parents, and professionals; planning for transitions to college and careers by exploring 2- and 4-year college options, STEM, CSE and ICT careers and work places, and what is needed to get there; fostering a community a youth who support one another?s interests in STEM.

Both modules, those for middle school and high school students, include discussions of food justice, site visits, and interaction with professional role models. The museum is predicting 70% completion of high school program participants who will spend two full years in the program. The middle school participants who are exposed to the curriculum are prepared to move into the full museum based activities. Prepared with relevant experience, the high school crews develop outreach activities for middle school children and families that infuse computational thinking into relevant projects such as analyzing school kitchen food waste and food production and sources within the community. Their training prepares them to pursue STEM careers. Parents and other community members also gain exposure to the program and the outcomes.

The program will take place in three phases: 1)training in basic computer programing and how to apply that knowledge to manipulate basic micro-controllers along with the basics of sustainable agriculture. Students learn how individual components can be made to work together to represent a complex system. They apply that knowledge to development of a sustainable system using the example of aquaponics, a sustainable food production process; 2) learning how food they eat can be understood as a complex system, studying school lunches as an example; 3) examine the cultural and dietary habits in their homes developing a picture of community habits and sharing the results with the community through visualizations of the data they have created and presentations to increase the community dialog on patterns of food choices and community access.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: RES ON GENDER IN SCI & ENGINE | Award Amount: 2.81M | Year: 2011

The Science Museum of Minnesota (SMM) proposes to develop an extension service project, Peer Alliance for Gender Equity (PAGE) Extension Service, that will build the capacity of district education leaders in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) to provide professional development (PD) to K-12 STEM teachers in research-based, gender-sensitive pedagogical classroom practices. These K-12 district leaders will serve as Extension Service Agents (ESAs) in the Upper Midwestern United States to implement a unified program of change focused on gender equity in STEM education that integrates theory, research findings, and practice. Each ESA will participate in 80 hours of PD through a PAGE Institute, Colloquia, a Virtual Learning Network (VLN), and Symposium over a 12-month period. The PAGE Portfolio of research, methods, and strategies will be used throughout the program. The goals of the PAGE Extension Service are to (1) prepare district-based, K-12 PD leaders to serve as ESAs for gender equity in STEM education by engaging them in summer institutes that provide a coherent foundation in related theory, pedagogical practices, and belief systems (referred to as the PAGE Portfolio); (2) develop ESAs ability to adapt, incorporate, and refine PAGE Portfolio modules within their own PD services for K-12 teachers through colloquia and on-going consultation; and (3) promote educational researcher awareness of the challenges and successes that teachers encounter as they ground their practice in theory by creating feedback loops among researchers, the Expert Project Team, ESAs, and teacher practitioners.

Intellectual Merit: PAGE will create a new model of extension services incorporating best practices from the PD literature that approaches gender equity in the context of complex equity issues of race, culture, and class, and is highly sensitive to the needs and pragmatic concerns of K-12 district leaderships who rarely are offered intensive professional development specifically designed for their positions. The field-tested PAGE Portfolio is organized around four major themes: (1) Equity and Access, focusing on classroom interaction patterns and pipeline issues; (2) Curriculum and Pedagogy, focusing on gender sensitive pedagogy and curriculum; (3) Reconstructing the Nature and Culture of STEM, focusing on the epistemology of these disciplines and the ways in which the values and beliefs behind scientific knowledge production have been associated with the masculine; and (4) Identity, focusing on the relationship between students identity formation and learning in STEM classrooms.

Broader Impact: Over five years, PAGE will involve the efforts of 125 ESAs, each of whom provide professional development to a minimum of 50 STEM educators per year. The Practitioner Community upon whom PAGE will ultimately have an impact includes 18,750 K-12 STEM teachers in public schools in Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. PAGE will bring together strategies that translate research into action through the PAGE community of educators who have extensive aggregate expertise in gender equity, STEM education, PD, research, and evaluation. The capacity built in individuals and programs through PAGE will be sustained through the combination of intensive PD, the virtual and face-to-face consultation, and material support for implementation of modules. The creation of a regional model that is responsive to local, state, and regional contexts and to the complex issues of identity will be disseminated to the national STEM education community and gender equity researchers.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: AISL | Award Amount: 1.36M | Year: 2016

Informal Science, Techology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) institutions seek to contribute to a scientifically literate culture, which includes new and innovative learning opportunities, a diverse community of scientists and science educators, equitable treatment for all, and the development of a well-trained workforce. In order to achieve these goals, informal STEM institutions must provide learning experiences that are welcoming and productive for all learners. The iPAGE model is a comprehensive program that prepares teams within informal STEM institutions to work with their colleagues to make their institutions more inclusive learning environments in which to learn, engage in, and identify with STEM. The project incorporates learning modules, workshops, site visits, and institution-specific activities all geared to build knowledge, awareness, and capacity related to creating inclusive environments at informal STEM institutions.

The core iPAGE model is based on the US Department of Agricultures agricultural extension service. It includes a Knowledge-to-Action approach, in which individuals adapt what they learn to local contexts by assessing barriers to knowledge use, selecting and implementing interventions, evaluating outcomes, and sustaining ongoing efforts. Through cycles of design-based iteration, the project will improve its practice, learning modules, and theory of action. Through surveys, interviews, and case studies, the research team will document learning, barriers to implementation, and culture change as teams and institutions seek to become more welcoming, diverse, and inclusive institutions.

This project is being funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: AISL | Award Amount: 490.32K | Year: 2016

Young people learn about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in a variety of ways and from many sources, including school, the media, personal experiences, and friends and family. Yet STEM participation and identification by youth are not equal across social, economic, and cultural communities. This project will study a long-term, out-of-school program for high school-age youth, who are from groups under-represented in STEM academics and careers: girls, youth from low-income households, and youth of color. Located in the urban context of the Science Museum of Minnesota, the Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center (KAYSC) engages youth in applying culturally rich STEM content to work toward social justice and community building. Specifically, this project will examine how the learning practices of the KAYSC model support youth in identifying with, engaging in, and participating in STEM. Through studying the KAYSCs STEM Justice model, which centers youth as learners, teachers, and leaders who address critical community issues through STEM, this project will develop resources that informal science educators in a variety of contexts and programs can use to promote positive social change, equity, inclusion, and applied STEM learning.

The Science Museum of Minnesota will use design-based implementation research to study this model. This research will draw on and further the emerging theoretical framework of science capital. Science capital attempts to capture multiple aspects of science learning and application, including science knowledge, social and cultural resources, and science-related behaviors and practices. Empirically developing the theory of science capital has the potential to build concrete understanding of how to address inequalities in science participation. Four teams will work independently and collaboratively to do so: an adult research team, a high school youth research team, a practitioner team, and a co-design team composed of representatives from the other three teams. Research teams will collect data in the form of observations, semi-structured interviews, practitioner activity reports, artifacts, and the experience sampling method. Initial cycles of design will occur at the Science Museum of Minnesota as researchers and practitioners document, analyze, and iteratively design learning practices within the STEM Justice model. In the second half of the grant, the team will work with an external out-of-school time youth leadership site to implement the redesigned model. Participatory research and design methods involving both youth and adults can advance understanding of what makes out-of-school time STEM learning meaningful, relevant, and successful for marginalized youth and their communities. Grounded in culturally and socially relevant, community-based resources and programming, this project will study how leveraging STEM out-of-school time learning connected to social justice can broaden access to STEM as well as develop workforce, and leadership, and STEM skills by under-represented youth. The project also builds staff capacity for promoting equity and access in informal learning settings.

This project is being funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: AISL | Award Amount: 899.74K | Year: 2013

Making Connections, a three-year design-based research study conducted by the Science Museum of Minnesota in partnership with Twin Cities communities, is developing and studying new ways to engage a broader audience in meaningful Maker experiences. This study draws and builds on existing theoretical frameworks to examine how community engagement techniques can be used to co-design and implement culturally-relevant marketing, activities, and events focused on Making that attract families from underrepresented audiences and ultimately engage them in meaningful informal STEM learning. The research is being done in three phases: Sharing and Listening - co-design with targeted communities; Making Activities Design and Implementation; Final Analysis, Synthesis and Dissemination. The project is also exploring new approaches in museums? cross-institutional practices that can strengthen the quality of their community-engagement.

In recent years, Making - a do-it-yourself, grassroots approach to designing and constructing real things through creativity, problem-solving, and tool use - has received increasing attention as a fruitful vehicle for introducing young people to the excitement of science and engineering and to career skills in these fields. Maker Faires attract hundreds and thousands of people to engage in Making activities every year, and the popularity of these events, as well as the number of museums and libraries that are beginning to provide opportunities for the public to regularly engage in these types of activities, are skyrocketing. However, Maker programs tend to draw audiences that are predominantly white, middle class, male, well educated, and strongly interested in science, despite the fact that the practices of Making are as common in more diverse communities. Making Connections has the potential to transform how children begin to cultivate a lifelong interest in engineering at a young age, which may ultimately encourage more young people of color to pursue engineering careers in the future.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 281.07K | Year: 2015

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) by producing empirical findings and/or research tools that contribute to knowledge about which models and interventions with K-12 students and teachers are most likely to increase capacity in the STEM and STEM cognate intensive workforce of the future.

The LinCT (Linking Educators, Youth, and Learners in Computational Thinking) project at the Science Museum of Minnesota (SMM) will engage female teachers-in-training and youth from underrepresented demographics in immersive technology experiences and STEM education. LinCT will guide teachers to develop their understanding and use of technology in the classroom, as well as prepare youth for a future where technology plays a key role in a wide range of professional opportunities. The project aims to inspire teachers and youth to see the possibilities of technological competencies, as well as why the incorporation of technology can build meaningful learning experiences and opportunities for all learners. The LinCT program model offers learning and application experiences for participating teachers and youth and provides an introduction of technological tools used in SMM educational programs and professional development on approaches for engaging all learners in STEM. Both groups will provide instruction in SMM technology-based Summer Camps, reaching 1,000 young people every year. In each following school year, project educators will develop and deliver technology-based programs to nearly 1,000 under-served and underrepresented elementary students. The project will allow teachers and youth to deliver exciting and engaging technology-based programs to nearly 4,000 diverse young learners. As a result, all participants in this project will be better equipped to incorporate technology in their future careers.

The LinCT project will investigate effective approaches for broadening the participation of underrepresented populations by providing female pre-service teachers and female youth with opportunities to lead programming at the Science Museum of Minnesota (SMM). Over three years, the LinCT project will employ 8-12 female teachers-in-training [Teacher Tech Cadres (TTC)] and 12-24 female youth [Youth Teaching Tech Crews (Y-TTC)] from demographics that are underrepresented in STEM fields. The integration of these groups will result in relationships fostered within an educational program, where all participants are learners and teachers, mentors and mentees. The results of this unique program model will be assessed through the experiences of this focused professional learning and teaching community. The LinCT research study will focus on three aspects of the project. First, it will seek to understand how the teachers-in-training and youth experience the project models varied learning environments. Next, the study will explore how the TTCs and the Y-TTCs motivation, confidence, and self-efficacy with integrating technology across educational settings change because of the program. Finally, the study will seek to understand the lasting aspects of culture, training, and community building on SMMs internal teams and LinCT partner institutions (University of St. Catherines National Center for STEM Elementary Education and Metropolitan State Universitys School of Urban Education).

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