Using Science Academies (USA) Project

August 15th, 2013 - July 31st, 2015 | PROJECT

Using STEM America (USA) is a two-year Pathways project designed to examine the feasibility of using informal STEM learning opportunities to improve science literacy among English Language Learner (ELL) students in Imperial County, California. Project partners include the Rueben H. Fleet Science Center and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). The project's goals are to support teachers in the development of informal science education opportunities for English learners, partner with students in grades 7-12 to create activities and exhibits, deliver student-produced products to community members, and sustain and disseminate the activities through the development of web-based teacher tools. The teachers will work with informal science education experts, STEM professionals, and undergraduate students to develop and implement the program lessons with their 7-12 grade students. The activities and exhibits designed for community audiences will be used in the Imperial Valley Discovery Zone, slated for completion in fall 2013. Special emphasis will be placed on understanding English scientific word frames and science content specific vocabulary to help ELL students express complex scientific concepts in English. The project deliverables in this pilot project include a comprehensive teacher professional development strategy, student-developed informal science activities and exhibits, a project website, and multiple teacher resources (lesson plans, how-to guides, training materials, and social networking tools). Teachers will receive 45 hours of professional development during the summer with an additional 20 hours of support provided during the school year. UCSD's Jacob's School of Engineering will provide training on solar energy micro-grids using a micro-grid observatory to be located in Imperial Valley. English language development training will be provided by the University of California's Professional Development Institute (UCPDI) and address the role of language objectives in scientific conceptual knowledge and language development; using science and language to improve classroom questioning/discussion; and teaching academic language to English learners. The informal science education component of the training provided by the Fleet Science Center will address topics such as questioning strategies, scientific reasoning frameworks, communicating science to public audiences, and learning "high level" science content using hands-on approaches. The project design builds on research which supports an active learning approach that mirrors scientific practice and is one of the strengths of informal science learning environments. The question to be addressed by the USA Project is: "Can informal STEM activities with embedded English Language development strategies assist English learner students to increase their English language competency and their interest in STEM subjects?" The PI seeks to identify the impact that teachers have on guiding students in inquiry-based informal STEM education, evaluate the academic outcomes for students, and measure changes in community interest, understanding, and attitudes towards STEM and STEM occupations. The USA Project is designed to reach approximately 200 underserved students and will promote the participation of at least 400 additional students, parents, and other rural community members. It is anticipated that this project will result in the development of a model for teacher-led informal STEM education, increased STEM learning opportunities for the community, and the development of a network of educational institutions that helps to bridge formal and informal STEM learning and learning environments.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products

Poster - Using Science Academies (USA) Project

Team Members

Edwin Obergfell, Principal Investigator, Imperial Valley Regional Occupational Program
Philip Villamor, Contributor, Imperial Valley Regional Occupation Program


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: ISE/AISL
Award Number: 1323797
Funding Amount: 250000


Access and Inclusion: English Language Learners
Audience: Educators | Teachers | Evaluators | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals | Undergraduate | Graduate Students | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Education and learning science | Engineering | General STEM | Mathematics | Technology
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Informal | Formal Connections | K-12 Programs | Media and Technology | Museum and Science Center Exhibits | Museum and Science Center Programs | Professional Development | Conferences | Networks | Professional Development and Workshops | Public Programs | Websites | Mobile Apps | Online Media