Making it Real: Engaging Middle School Students with Earth Systems Connections – Summative Evaluation of ‘6 Degrees of Connection’

February 1st, 2017 | EVALUATION

‘6 Degrees of Connection’ is an informative and memorable program that combines a one-hour Science On a Sphere® interactive presentation with a follow-up creative art activity – each aspect of which encourages middle school students to think of interconnections among phenomena on the planet, including the natural world and human activity. 

The ‘6 Degrees of Connection’ program was developed by the Nurture Nature Center (Easton PA) in collaboration with the Maryland Science Center (Baltimore MD) through an extensive process of developing the concept, prototypes, and final program. Lehigh University helped recruit student interns to develop content for the program and NASA’s Maurice Henderson acted as an advisor.

The program was focused on earth science concepts and the theme of interconnectedness, relying on a personal relevance hook – the 6 degrees theme – to capture interest and motivation to further pursue STEM experiences and careers. The 6 degrees theme, inspired the 6 degrees of separation theory, underscores the idea of personal connections and interrelationships with consequences. 

Key goals of the program were: 1. Increase knowledge of Earth Systems and how they are interconnected; 2. Maintain or increase interest/engagement in STEM subjects to prepare for STEM careers; 3. Increase personal engagement and connection to science through creative art activities; 4. Increase ability to explain chains of connections - how one event can lead to another; 5. Increase ability to perceive how global issues affect one locally and vice versa.

This summative evaluation reports on the extent to which the ‘6 Degrees of Connection’ program fulfills its goals and offers insights into other impacts of the program on middle school students.



Team Members

Kathryn Semmens, Principal Investigator, Nurture Nature Center
Rachel Hogan Carr, Contributor, Nurture Nature Center
Keri Maxfield, Contributor, Nurture Nature Center
Jim O'Leary, Contributor, Maryland Science Center
Joan Ramage, Contributor, Lehigh University
Maurice Henderson, Contributor, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Christine Larouche, Evaluator, People, Places and Design Research
Jeff Hayward, Evaluator, People, Places and Design Research


Funding Source: NASA
Funding Program: CP4SMPV
Award Number: NNX16AM18G
Funding Amount: $420,000

Related URLs

6 Degrees of Influence: Understanding the Interconnectedness of Earth Systems


Audience: Evaluators | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Art | music | theater | Climate | Ecology | forestry | agriculture | Geoscience and geography
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Summative
Environment Type: Media and Technology | Planetarium and Science on a Sphere | Public Programs