PLUM RX: Researching a new pathway for bringing active science exploration to urban families

September 1st, 2015 - August 31st, 2018 | PROJECT

Capitalizing on the appeal of the PBS KIDS project PLUM LANDING, PLUM RX will research and develop resources to help families and educators infuse environmental science learning into outdoor prescription programs, while ensuring they are appropriate for broad use in other informal settings. The growing outdoor prescription movement is designed to increase the amount of time children spend outside in nature. Programs are structured so that health care providers write "prescriptions" for children to engage in outdoor activity, and informal educators "fill" these prescriptions by facilitating youth and family participation in outdoor activities. There is preliminary evidence that these programs are getting kids outside, but best practices for transitioning "get outside" programs to become "get outside and learn about the environment" programs remain unidentified. PLUM RX is designed to build this knowledge and create resources that are responsive to the needs of both English and Spanish-speaking urban families. The project will work with informal educators and families through multiple cycles of implementation and revision, testing and refining PLUM LANDING resources (animations, videos, games, hands-on science activities, and support materials for informal educators and families), with the goal of designing an effective and accessible PLUM RX Toolkit for national dissemination. This project is 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 (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) learning in informal environments. The proposed research is designed to ensure that the PLUM RX Toolkit--the resources and support materials--will meet the needs of educators working in non-specialized urban settings. Education Development Center (EDC) and WGBH developers will collaborate on design-based research at three urban outdoor prescription programs serving low-income families: Philadelphia Nature Rx in Philadelphia, PA; Outdoors Rx in Boston, MA; and Portland Rx Play in Portland, OR. Moving through cycles of implementation, observation, analysis, and revision, the research team will work closely with educators, families, and developers to determine how the programmatic and structural features of the learning environment, the actions of the educators, and the intervention itself can most effectively support children and families' outdoor exploration in urban contexts. Toolkit materials will include resources for kids and families (including Spanish-speaking families) and informal educators (including those who work with families and directly with children in out-of-school settings). Directors from the three urban outdoor prescription programs will contribute to every phase of the research process, including recruiting families and youth who will participate in a weekly sequence of activities. The overarching focus of the analysis process will be on systematically describing the interaction between two dimensions of implementation: What happened during pilot implementations, and the factors that constrained or supported implementation as planned; and the quality of what happened, which will be defined with reference to the intended impacts. EDC will use a structured descriptive coding process to analyze the qualitative evidence gathered through interviews and observations during design and testing periods. Products of the research activities will include: a series of formative memos to the development team; a report mapping changes made to PLUM RX Toolkit materials in response to formative input and the intended impact of those changes; and findings regarding commonalities and differences across sites in the interaction of local contextual factors and the implementation success of the PLUM RX Toolkit. Concord Evaluation Group (CEG) will provide independent, summative evaluation of the project. Through this process, PLUM RX will build broader knowledge about how to design educational resources, geared for both families and informal educators, which respond to the unique challenges of exploring environmental science in urban environments.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products
Connecting Urban Families With Environmental Science
Video - Plum Landing Explore Outdoors
Building Broader Knowledge: Supporting Children’s Active, Outdoor Science Exploration in Urban Environments
PLUM LANDING Explore Outdoors Toolkit: Scale-Up Study
Video: Plum Landing Explore Outdoors
PLUM LANDING Explore Outdoors Summative Evaluation Report
PLUM LANDING Explore Outdoors At-Home Study

Team Members

Marisa Wolsky, Principal Investigator, WGBH Educational Foundation
Mary Haggerty, Co-Principal Investigator, WGBH Educational Foundation


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: AISL
Award Number: 1516466
Funding Amount: $1,989,723


Access and Inclusion: English Language Learners | Ethnic | Racial | Hispanic | Latinx Communities | Urban
Audience: Educators | Teachers | Elementary School Children (6-10) | Families | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Ecology | forestry | agriculture | Health and medicine
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Broadcast Media | Informal | Formal Connections | K-12 Programs | Media and Technology | Public Programs