Today’s schools are experiencing increasing cultural and linguistic diversity and facing the challenge of creating meaningful connections between school science and student lived experiences outside of school. Middle school is a critical time to provide fundamental knowledge and encourage interest in STEM careers. In order to best impact learners during this critical period, science teachers need improved models to support the development and delivery of relevant curriculum materials to better serve all students in their classrooms. Highly supported design teams consisting of researchers, teachers, and both school and district science specialists will co-adapt existing district-generated science units to integrate socially and culturally relevant science practices and draw on students' diverse cultural and language practices as strengths.
This project explores the potential for enhancing students' interest and ability in STEM disciplines by broadening fourth grade students' understanding and interest in the spatial perspectives inherent in geography and other science disciplines. The project tests a set of hypotheses that posit that the use of GIS in the classroom results in a measureable improvement in students' spatial reasoning and motivation.