CCSS/NGSS Pilot for Library Summer Reading Club: Informal K-8 STEM Learning as a Bridge for Formal Scholastic Learning

Charles B. Greenberg,
Murrysville Community Library
Nancy R. Bunt,
Math & Science Collaborative
Jamie K. Falo,
Murrysville Community Library
Michael Fierle,
Math & Science Collaborative
Barbara Lease,
Math & Science Collaborative
Corinne Murawski,
Math & Science Collaborative
Gabriela Rose,
Math & Science Collaborative
Cynthia A. Tananis,
Collaborative for Evaluation and Assessment Capacity (CEAC), University of Pittsburgh
Keith Trahan,
CEAC, University of Pittsburgh
Dana Winters,
CEAC, University of Pittsburgh

Abstract

The applied research pilot project of this report seeks to advance K-8 STEM learning by bridging in-school, scholastic learning sessions with informal, out-of-school, summertime learning at public libraries. Professional library programming for children and families around reading and learning is already an integral component of meeting community needs, especially during the summer months when skills can be lost. Annually, and nationally, public libraries have been sharing a themed set of guidelines and activities for Summer Reading Clubs, and activities for K-8 Summer Reading Clubs. The pilot program has been designed to professionally train librarians, administrators, and volunteers for orienting these children, their parents and guardians, to STEM learning in particular, based on scholastic Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in mathematics/English language arts, and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). This report describes the activities and progress in the first year of the two-year pilot, including results from an external evaluation.

Introduction

Public Library of the Conflicted Civic Mind

If a community is fortunate enough to have its own public library, that library is often openly associated with civic pride, and, at least within the core body of the library’s users and supporters, with a genuine love of books and reading. For some modern-day cynics, nevertheless, the public library is perceived as only a side street of the new main road paved for the Internet. This paper will demonstrate that such a perception is false; we will show how libraries can reinvent themselves to an even larger educational purpose, one that is integral to scholastic STEM learning, and one that can better withstand cynical views.

The Murrysville Community Library is a non-profit corporation, with a Board of Directors, with its own Articles of Incorporation, with an annual budget plan, and with a strategic plan; it is no different from any other corporation, but because it serves at the pleasure of the community, the conflicting views between user and non-user, book-lover and cynic, impact annual funding and viability. In the state of Pennsylvania, where we serve in the southwest corner, there are 445 such public libraries and twenty-nine Districts into which the libraries are grouped regionally (PDE 2012). Districts sometimes correspond with counties.

On Building a New Model

In our District of twenty-four libraries, the Westmoreland Library Network (WLNTM), we are in the midst of piloting a new model, one that is intended to eventually overcome not only cynical perceptions, but complacency as well, and to fill a societal educational void (Greenberg and Falo 2014–15). This is really the goal of the pilot project. It integrates a summertime, K-8 educational library experience—based on Common Core State Standards in mathematics/English language arts and Next Generation Science Standards—with formal, standards-based, scholastic learning (NGSS 2014; PA Common Core 2012; Widener 2014). The two-year pilot is about bridging fall/winter/spring scholastic semesters with enhanced and more purposeful, standards-based summer programming. This paper is a report on the first year’s activities and progress, including an external evaluation by the Collaborative for Evaluation and Assessment Capacity (CEAC), University of Pittsburgh School of Education.

Background

Library Strengths and Addressing a Weakness

In Pennsylvania, public libraries are well-established, stable resources for information access, reading for pleasure, and informal learning. They operate with a common core of information services. Library Directors and some other staff are trained at the level of a university M.S. Public libraries adhere to specific state library codes, and they operate under the state’s Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Office of Commonwealth Libraries. However, while skilled in reading literacy, staff is rarely trained in STEM subject matter or pedagogy. The two-year pilot project in progress seeks to advance student interest in or disposition towards STEM, along with actual learning and understanding of STEM concepts, by building library staff capacity to include STEM in its programming and to make more connections with CCSS and NGSS standards. It seeks to reach across a full spectrum of learning groups in one large PA county/ District, with rural to suburban to urban population, and also to be comprehensive with respect to gender, race, ethnicity, and economic means.

Summer Reading Club as Central to the Vision

Many public libraries in all fifty states already participate in an organized Summer Reading Club activity, using a nationally themed set of guidelines and activities structured by the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP 2014). For 2014, the designated theme was “Science: Fizz, Boom, Read!,” a first-time explicit focus on science in twenty years of theme-setting. The pilot is designed to take advantage of the established and ongoing reading program and its popularity, as well as the favorable theme. It is doing this by training library staff and key programming volunteers in advance of summer to orient children, parents, and guardians to CCSS/ NGSS learning, under the banner of the Summer Reading Club. The collaborating trainers, who otherwise train scholastic teachers and administrators in their usual role, are Mathematics & Science Coordinators from southwestern PA’s Math & Science Collaborative (MSC), of which more will be said below. Those who are trained then become trainers for all participants, hopefully leading to the lifelong standards-based learning for all that is needed throughout our society.

MSC Trainers and Library Trainees

For eleven counties, 138 public school districts and non-public schools, MSC stands as the area’s comprehensive catalyst for advancement of K-12 STEM learning. MSC’s multifaceted STEM program, by which 1250+ teachers and administrators have received training over about twenty years, has: (1) sustained a teacher culture of lifelong professional learning by the internal sharing of best practices and external enrichment; (2) taught teachers to take more personal responsibility for lifetime professional learning; (3) institutionalized a complex array of professional communication and training networks for teachers, administrators, and institutions of education; (4) established the MSC as a leading proponent for CCSS and NGSS standards. In 2012, the MSC earned the prestigious Carnegie Science Center’s Leadership in STEM Education Award in recognition of its exceptional impact. It is well positioned to repurpose its usual teacher-training model for use in the public library world.

Key trainees include Library Directors, Children’s Librarians, volunteers, and Board Directors. The Directors are important for building administrative support for the initiative; in 2014 four Directors from the Murrysville Community Library (MCL) Board and/or its fundraising MCL Foundation Board participated. The two Boards work closely, even sharing a Strategic Plan; two trainees serve on both Boards. For this first year, Murrysville Community Library was targeted as the particular focus for training, rather than the WLN District as a whole, although participants came from ten libraries in all. In 2015 the emphasis will shift to the WLN District as a whole. MCL’s Library Director and Youth Services Coordinator participated fully.

MCL is a particularly good starting point for the pilot because of its depth of experience and recognized skill in children’s programming. The MCL offers numerous special programs for patrons of all ages, both on-site and off, some seasonally. The Children’s Library was recognized as the 2009 statewide winner of the prestigous PA Library Association’s David J. Roberts EXCEL Library Service Award. Furthermore, the MCL consistently draws about 900 youngsters annually for its Summer Reading Club, which is significant in a service area of about 28,000 people.

Specific Goals and Hypotheses

The project’s specific goals are (1) to incorporate STEM learning in nationally themed K-8 Summer Reading Club programming in public libraries, as well as other children’s programming during the year, as informed by curriculum grade-level standards; (2) to bridge grade-level learning during the otherwise low-STEM content, out-of-school summer months; (3) to make volunteers and family members a part of the learning, so that children and their families realize enrichment in both the library and home settings. The year-one parental experience is limited to on-site observation and/or child engagement at home; more direct training may be possible when staff members are better prepared as trainers themselves.

The research and development hypotheses are that: (1) in-school student STEM learning can be advanced, given continuity, and sustained by repurposing in-school MSC practices to out-of-school children’s programming in public libraries; (2) all children can learn science and mathematics; (3) awareness and knowledge of 21st-century skills for life- long, “life-wide,” and “life-deep” STEM experiences can be fostered in public library settings for family groups.

Methods

Workshops

Eight half-day training workshops were conducted from January through April 2014. Each was led by a pair of staff members from the MSC, most often paired as two Science Coordinators or two Math Coordinators. The workshops included explanative discussion by the Coordinators, hands-on activities, and extensive interactive discussion. The hands-on activities were connected to children’s literature that served as the pathway to important mathematics and/ or science processes and content.

For example, one session focused on number and shape patterns. The MSC facilitator read aloud the story “The Grapes of Math” (Tang 2004). Trainees then worked in small groups to solve a particular riddle from the story. Each trainee group shared its riddle and solution strategy with the other trainee groups. The ensuing plenary discussion focused on the following essential questions:

  • What mathematical or scientific concepts/ideas did the riddles (or activity) illuminate?
  • What insights/ideas did the activity leave with you?
  • With which standards of mathematical practice (or science and engineering practices) and English language arts capacities did the riddles most require you to engage? Why?
  • What are the implications for planning your summer reading program? How might you use a task/story/ac- tivity like this in the summer reading program?

Additional examples of the mathematics and science content of the exercises are summarized in Table 1.

The number of workshop attendees ranged from ten to twenty-two, averaging eighteen. In total, there were thirty-four unique attendees for the purposes of the external evaluation to be discussed below, of which thirty-one were library trainees. The additional three were community leaders with a stake in the outcome (Mayor, Superintendent of Schools, and Assistant Superintendent); these three attended part of one workshop each. The Program Officer and a Board Director from the lead funding agency participated at part of one workshop. The number of workshops attended by library trainees ranged from one to eight, but each workshop was sufficiently illustrative of CCSS/NGSS learning that a trainee could get the main points in one session. In general, additional sessions served to reinforce learning with new math and/or science process/content connections to children’s literature, to be applied during the coming Summer Reading Club.

A Venn diagram from Michaels (2013, 59), showing the CCSS/NGSS standards for mathematical practice, science and engineering practices, and English language arts capacities, was used repeatedly as a thumbnail point of reference. The trainers discussed the fuller descriptions for each set of practices as well. They provided all trainees with more extensive written content in three-ring binders, to which ongoing reference was made. These standards describe the proficiencies being targeted for the trainees, mirroring those exhibited by a mathematically and scientifically literate individual. At every workshop, the appropriate standards were discussed in the context of exemplary, hands-on exercises, each of which was done typically in groups of three or four. The intent was always to help the trainees understand the processes and proficiencies of mathematics and science, including how to reason in a professional way, and how to communicate in an informed way. Thus, the training was about more than just mathematical and scientific content, although that too was embedded in the exercises.

External Evaluation

The MCL contracted with the University of Pittsburgh’s Collaborative for Evaluation and Assessment Capacity to evaluate the 2014-2015 program. Two surveys were constructed to examine the effect of the program on the students and the library staff, administrators, and volunteers who participated in the training, particularly with regard to how their familiarity and understanding of mathematics and science concepts progressed. Training participants were contacted via email to complete the participant survey, while parents of children who participated in the program were asked, via email, to provide the survey to their children and to assist them in its completion. Survey responses addressed the following evaluation questions:

Q1: Do participating library staff, volunteers, and/or third parties develop or extend their knowledge and understanding of STEM content and learning engagement strategies?

Q2: Do participating library staff, volunteers, and/or third parties develop or extend their application of STEM content and learning engagement strategies?

Q3: Do child and adolescent learners engage with STEM concepts and processes in their involvement in the Summer Reading Club and/or their use of the library during summer months?

Q4: Do child and adolescent learners exhibit more positive perceptions of and attitudes toward STEM concepts and processes as a result of their involvement in the Summer Reading Club and/or their use of the library during summer months?

Input data were analyzed using basic descriptive statistics for scaled responses. Qualitative analysis strategies were used for open-ended responses. Sample survey questions are shown in Table 2.

Results

Of the 34 workshop participants who were surveyed by the CEAC, 68% (n=23) responded, all of them library staff/administrator/volunteer trainees (Winters and Wade 2014). As for parents and children who participated in the program, about 6% (n=61) of the total of participants responded to the survey. The key findings from the report are as follows:

Key Findings for the Training Participants
  • Roughly half of the training participants (57%, n=12) had never received any prior professional development in mathematics and/or science.
  • More than two-thirds of respondents (71%, n=15) strongly agreed or agreed that they are better able to answer students’ questions about various STEM concepts and assist families in helping their children to learn and understand math and science.
  • A large majority (81%, n=17) indicated greater confidence in their ability to select more appropriate resources to improve children’s knowledge of mathematics and science.
  • A large majority of respondents (86%, n=18) indicated that as a result of the training they better understood how children think about mathematics and science.
  • Nearly all respondents (90.5%, n=19) indicated that as a result of the training program they could better help children appreciate the value of learning math and science.
  • Nearly all open-ended responses indicated that respondents could better help students to appreciate the value in learning mathematics and science as a result of training participation.
Key Findings for the Students
  • Gender and grade level seemed to be non-factors for student enjoyment of Summer Reading Club; however, girl respondents indicated a greater interest in science than boy respondents as a result of participating in the Science: Fizz, Boom, Read! program (girls: 80%, n=24; boys: 61%, n=19).
  • More than three-quarters of student respondents (77%, n=47) had previously participated in library programs.
  • Over half of the students (54%, n=32) indicated that, as a result of participating in Science: Fizz, Boom, Read! they understood science better.
  • Almost three-quarters of student respondents (73%, n=43) indicated an increased interest in science as a result of the Science: Fizz, Boom, Read! program.
  • Over half of student respondents (51%, n=30) indicated that they would use the library to learn more about science. Of these 30 students, 53% (n=16) indicated that they were more inclined to ask librarians questions about science.
  • A large majority of student respondents (81%, n=48) stated that they wanted to attend more programs about science and were more interested in science experiments as a result of the Science: Fizz, Boom, Read! program.

Discussion and Summary

Although the above results represent only the earliest product of what is perceived to be a multiyear and ongoing growth process, they are entirely positive and encouraging. Both trainees and students affirmed the multiple benefits to their relationships with STEM from the experience. The responses are consistent with the earlier brief report of Greenberg and Falo (2014–15), made before CEAC’s external evaluation was done. Certain early outcomes are noted in that report. The most important are these: (1) children’s librarians from multiple libraries began immediately to plan together for the year’s Summer Reading Club, which they had not done before; (2) librarians expressed appreciation for having had identified for them STEM children’s books of high value and credibility; (3) as a given, for the first time, there is now an ongoing working collaboration among scholastic trainers and librarians (as evidenced now by the co-authorship of the present report).

In the second-year Summer Reading Club 2015 timeframe, the K-8 theme is known to be Every Hero Has a Story. This theme is not explicitly science-based, as was the year-one theme, but it does still serve as a framework for introducing STEM content. Indeed, every theme can be made to include STEM content. In this case, some of the heroes will actually be scientists, mathematicians, or engineers. Some will be non-scientists who use STEM. For example, a fireman hero learns to extinguish fires using chemical combustion principles. Similar strategies can be applied generally for topics yet unnamed in subsequent years. In that way, as librarians gain knowledge and skills, they will continue to create programs and provide informed resources that encourage patron interaction with STEM concepts, even while continuing to promote reading skills and language arts.

In 2014, a first step was taken to introduce the pilot and its intent to the Superintendent of Schools and the Assistant Superintendent for Murrysville. This was done through their participation as trainees and by off-site exchanges. Each participating library will need to make this an ongoing effort. Finally, returning to the question of whether the public library has become just a side street to the main Internet thoroughfare: it has not, or at least it should not have done so, for one main reason. The Internet is a place to find everything, both information that is informed, correct, and professionally referenced, and information that is not. This goes to the matter of quality of information, and consistency with respect to quality, and, in the case of STEM subjects, adherence to the scientific approach itself. Thus, the Internet has an inherent weakness. Anyone can add information to it, and do so without rules as to quality, and no one is responsible for showing the reader or user how to differentiate. With proper training, the same is not true of public libraries; a well-trained and present staff can make the difference, for using both the local collection and the Internet. The first year of this project has shown that staff consciousness has been raised in respect to choosing quality STEM resources for collection-building and programming, including Summer Reading Club programming. This outcome alone convinces us that we are on the right track with this project.

Our goal for the second year of sponsored training is to expand participation within our District to a broader population of staff members, administrators, and volunteers, including both new and repeat participants. We have also arranged to have at least one participant from a contiguous District attend a training session, with the purpose of possibly expanding the program to her District. Ultimately, depending on outcomes, we imagine at least a statewide presence for STEM training, with goals similar to those of this pilot.

About the Authors

Charles B. Greenberg is retired Corporate Fellow and Manager of Flat Glass New Product Development for PPG Industries, Inc., with expertise in glass, solar control, thin films, switchable materials, and photocatalysis for self-cleaning. He earned a B.S. from Rutgers University and a Ph.D. and M.S. from the University of Illinois, all in Materials Science/Engineering. Since retirement in 2002, he has been dedicated to several special K-12 to senior learning initiatives relating to STEM and has served on various education and library Boards/Councils. For purposes of the present article, he is a Director and Im- mediate Past President of the Murrysville Community Library Board, as well as the Westmoreland Library Network’s Treasurer, Immediate Past President, and representative on the Math & Science Collaborative Steering Council.

Nancy R. Bunt is Program Director of southwestern Pennsylvania’s Math & Science Collaborative, headquartered at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit. She also served concurrently as MSC’s Principal Investigator for a $20 million Southwest Pennsylvania Math Science Partnership funded by the NSF and the PA Dept. of Education. She has led the Collaborative in the coordination of efforts to focus K-16 and informal learning resources on strengthening the teaching and learning of mathematics and science for all 138 K-12 school districts in the 11 counties surrounding and including Pittsburgh. Bunt is a certified teacher and administrator who has worked in urban and suburban settings in Pennsylvania and in Europe. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, and her masters and doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh.

Jamie K. Falo has been Library Director for the Murrysville Community Library in Murrysville, PA since 2011, following nine years as Library Director for the Mount Pleasant Public Library in Mount Pleasant. She earned her B.S. and M.L.I.S. from the University of Pittsburgh. Jamie is an active member of the Pennsylvania Library Association (PaLA), serves in various positions of governance for the Westmoreland Library Network, and serves on the Franklin Regional School District Act 48 Committee. Jamie presented a poster about aspects of this paper at the 2014 PaLA Southwest Regional Summer Reading Club Conference.

Michael Fierle is certified in Secondary Mathematics Education, Supervisory-Mathematics, and K-12 Principal. He completed his undergraduate studies at Indiana University of PA, and then attended the University of Pittsburgh where he earned his M.Ed. by completing the Administrative and Policies Studies program. His teaching experience includes eight years as a middle/ high school mathematics educator in various school systems in PA and VA. As a Mathematics Coordinator with the Math & Science Collaborative for the past ten years, he has provided direct math professional development to school districts and educators throughout southwestern PA, as well as support for regional STEM Professional Learning Communities (PLCs).

Barbara Lease has been in education for 24 years and is currently a Science Coordinator with the Math & Science Collaborative. Barbara earned a B.S. in biology from Allegheny College, did graduate work at the University of Pittsburgh in human genetics, and was certified as a biology teacher through Seton Hill University. Previously, Barbara worked as biology and mathematics instructor for Mater Dei College in Ogdensburg, New York, as a professional development coordinator at the Carnegie Science Center, Pittsburgh, and as a secondary science teacher in the Pittsburgh area’s Penn Hills School District.

Corinne Murawski is a Mathematics Coordinator with the Math & Science Collaborative and a mother of two daughters, ages 4 and 9. Corinne earned her undergraduate degree from Penn State University, and her Masters degree in Education Policy Studies and a K-12 Supervisory Certificate from Duquesne University. Previously, Corinne worked as a district-level administrator for supervision of mathematics/computer science; as a curriculum, textbook, and cognitive tutor developer; and as a classroom teacher in mathematics and science. Corinne has worked with the University of Pittsburgh to supervise pre-service mathematics teachers, and she has also taught undergraduate and graduate courses both face-to-face and online.

Gabriela Rose is a Science Coordinator for the Math & Science Collaborative at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit in Pittsburgh, PA. In this position she is working with science teachers and administrators to implement rigorous inquiry-based science instruction with the goal of preparing all students for college and career in the 21st century. Before coming to the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, Gabriela taught middle school science. Gabriela holds certification for Biology 7–12, Middle Level Science, K-12 Principal, and Supervisor for Curriculum and Instruction. Gabriela earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in biology and physical education at the Free University of Berlin, and a Master of Science in Ecology from the University of California at Davis.

Cynthia A. Tananis founded the Collaborative for Evaluation and Assessment Capacity in the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh and serves as its Director and as an Associate Professor in the School Leadership Program. Her expertise focuses on using participative evaluation designs with involved stakeholders, helping people make sense of and benefit from the evaluation process through collaboration, and linking evaluation studies and school reform policy. She holds a B.S. in Education and an Ed.D. in Policy, Planning, and Evaluation Studies, both from the University of Pittsburgh.

Keith Trahan serves as the Assistant Director of CEAC. Keith has been lead evaluator for a variety of programs in the areas of K-12 math and science reform and school leadership, IHE STEM curriculum, instruction, and learning, IHE international education, and community-based human services. He holds a B.A. in Government and a B.A. in Sociology from McNeese State University, an M.A.T. from Charleston Southern University, and a Ph.D. from the Social and Comparative Analysis in Education Program at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dana Winters serves as Senior Evaluator for CEAC. Dana has experience leading evaluations throughout PK-16 formal education, large-scale STEM and literacy reform initiatives, informal education, and community-based non-profit evaluation. Dana has a B.A. in Sociology and Political Science from Saint Vincent College and a M.A. in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She is currently a doctoral student in the Social and Comparative Analysis in Education Program at the University of Pittsburgh.

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Notes

  • The authors thank the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County (affiliated with The Pittsburgh Foundation) for its lead support in the project. They also are grateful to the following key supporters: the Community Foundation of Murrysville, Export, and Delmont; PPG GIVE Award; the Lulu Pool Trust, managed by First Commonwealth Bank; Lakshmi Gupta.
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Flipping an Introductory Science Course Using Emerging Technologies

 

David Green,
University of Miami
Jennifer Sparrow,
Penn State University

Abstract

Today’s faculty members have tools available that enhance the learning experience of modern digital learners. Emerging technologies and innovative teaching practices update the STEM education learning process and facilitate student retention. In today’s hybridized educational world, the classroom stretches far beyond the traditional four walls, and students should be producers of content, rather than merely passive acceptors of information. This article explains how several emerging technologies were implemented and tested in a General Education marine science course for non-majors, describes the role of technologies in “flipping” the classroom, and summarizes student feedback on the learning experience. Using the global marine system and specific case study locations, the course covered major oceanography disciplines, critical environmental issues, and socio-economic conditions of urbanized coastal regions. Environmental sustainability was the integrative theme, highlighting the importance of economic growth while emphasizing that environmental responsibility and social well being must be foregrounded in the context of an exponentially growing human population.

Flipping the classroom using emerging technologies supplemented a rigorous schedule of project-based learning, laboratory activities, field excursions, and civic engagement commitments. Pre- and post- SALG surveys (Student Assessment of Their Learning Gains) were used to gauge student perspectives on the course redesign. They demonstrated improvements in knowledge, skills development, and integration of learning. The combination of activity-based, student-centered learning and emerging technologies make today’s STEM education classroom an exciting, interactive, and engaging experience by giving these sometimes reluctant students the tools they need to succeed in tomorrow’s professional world.

Introduction

A scientifically educated citizenry capable of innovation and leadership is a necessity for a functioning democracy. Many of today’s learners, however, are ambivalent about science and science education, and they lack understanding of how science relates to their daily lives (Burns 2011; Burns 2012; Green 2012). While today’s learners have been surrounded by technologies in the classroom throughout their entire academic journey, many lack the skills necessary to apply their learning and to produce content and are still passive acceptors of information. Educators now have a responsibility and the opportunity to introduce “high-impact educational practices” into curricular redesigns (Kuh 2008). A host of innovative teaching strategies in STEM education have emerged (Springer et al. 1999; Vatovec and Balser 2009; Brown et al. 2010; Prunuske et al. 2012; Green 2012) that can engage reluctant students, increase critical thinking abilities, foster collaborative relationships in the classroom, and enhance communication skills (oral, written, and digital). Matching appropriate emerging technologies with effective teaching practices (Brill and Park 2008) and gathering feedback on these STEM course redesigns is imperative as we continue to enhance our curricula.

With the advance of academic technologies, many educators have embraced the “hybrid” course design (Garrison and Kanuka 2004; McGee and Reis 2012). Hybrid courses (or blended course designs) are those in which a significant amount of quality online content is used to engage students (McGee and Reis 2012) while providing new teaching opportunities for educators (McGee and Diaz 2007; Brown et al. 2010; Green 2012). Modern learners have been called “digital natives,” while today’s educators have been named “digital immigrants,” but that terminology has generated some debate (Prensky 2001a and 2001b; Toledo 2007; Bennett et al. 2008). Although educators and learners may speak different languages in relation to technology and have different comfort levels regarding its use, it is easy to see the potential of hybrid course design for today’s multi-tasking, quick information- seeking, and media-socialized students. Using emerging technologies facilitates activity-based learning and provides students with ownership of the learning environment (Brill and Park 2008; Strayer 2012; Prunuske et al. 2012). Connecting sound pedagogical strategies with suitable technology usage creates a learning environment that matches the needs of modern learners, while providing them with the skills they need to succeed in their professional careers.

Inverting the teaching sequence, or “flipping” the classroom, has gained significant attention in recent years (Lage et al. 2000; Milman 2012; Strayer 2012; Khan 2012; Prober and Khan 2013). Essentially, traditional lecture-type material is provided to students in video or online format before face- to-face sessions. Then, during the face-to-face meetings, students are engaged in social-learning scenarios that promote interactions, engagement, and skills development by applying their knowledge. The role of the instructor changes and, in many ways, resembles an “academic coach” during the learning process rather than an “information presenter.”

Figure 1. A conceptual model of the “flipped classroom” scenario used in the course redesign is depicted. Before attending face-to-face sessions, students are expected to read introductory content, which includes both traditional readings and interactive web-based activities. During face-to-face class sessions, students engage in learner-centered approaches, including activity-based labs and experiential learning opportunities. By implementing combinations of project-based learning, case study analyses, and civic engagement strategies, students apply their learning, demonstrate higher-order thinking skills, and produce content that ultimately benefits the needs of the regional community.

Figure 1 outlines the course design conceptual model used in this curriculum redesign, which employed web-based reusable learning objects that students used before class sessions, so that experiential and activity-based learning activities could be conducted during face-to-face sessions. Reflective exercises and activities, like project-based and service-learning activities, are high-impact learning opportunities that promote academic responsibility and civic engagement. Using emerging technologies to “flip the course” provided the curricular flexibility to implement these innovative teaching strategies. “Marine Systems” is an introductory general education science course for non-science majors that has traditionally been taught as a lecture-based course with embedded laboratory exercises. This paper describes a curriculum redesign that used a“flipped” course model, learner-centered approaches, and embedded service-learning opportunities, and it provides student perspectives on the learning process. The use of emerging technologies in the curriculum facilitated the course delivery, so that students developed an understanding of ecology and its relevance to their daily lives, increasing their civic engagement and awareness (fig. 2).

Figure 2. By using emerging technologies to facilitate the learning process, students gain an ecological perspective related to the marine science concepts they are introduced to. This helps them retain information and connect it to their daily lives, and, following successful completion of the course and civic engagement activities, they leave as engaged citizens.

The primary goals of this course redesign were

  1. To enhance the educational experiences of non-major science students by engaging in learner-centered approaches and web-based techniques;
  2. To demonstrate the potential pedagogical benefits of coupling emerging technologies with innovative teaching practices in a STEM education setting;
  3. To assess student perspectives of their learning gains related to their adoption of emerging technology in a “flipped classroom” scenario.

Methods

The course redesign began by linking course objectives and learning outcomes to a “Guiding Question” which reads:

“Given the current degree of human impacts on the marine world, how can tomorrow’s generations of all inhabitants continue to benefit from the natural goods and services a healthy marine system provides, if we better understand our role as citizens today?”

From this follows the “Primary Course Objective” for this course:

“Students will be able to positively influence both southwest Florida and global communities in mak- ing evidence-based decisions regarding human use and impacts of coastal and marine areas / resources.”

Lastly, the specific learning outcomes and skills development objectives are

  1. To enhance baseline scientific knowledge relating to marine systems and global sustainability by developing critical thinking skills;
  2. To gain an understanding of the ecology of regional ecosystems, the natural goods and services provided by these ecosystems, and how human interactions disrupt natural functions;

To introduce the concept of environmental sustainability and provide opportunities for students to apply this concept to practical real-life situations in an urbanized society.

Learner-centered Approaches

A variety of learner-centered approaches (experiential learning and project-based learning) were used to enhance student practice, learning, and contributions to the learning environment (fig. 3). Combinations of classroom and field-based learning exercises were used to describe the scientific method, to help explain key oceanographic concepts, and to provide encounters with local estuarine ecosystems. Students were given ownership of academic exercises, while the instructor facilitated, guided, and reinforced crucial learning content. Table 1 explains the calendar of individual learning modules with associated major academic themes and objectives. Multiple sources of information including the textbook, scientific journal articles, lab exercises, and personal observations were used. The textbook provided background information, while journal articles examined current issues and explored topics such as ocean acidification, human impacts, overexploitation of marine resources, and global climate change. Learner-centered laboratory exercises applied textbook concepts and provided a collaborative, activity-based learning environment. A reflective journal provided opportunities for student observations and personal reflections on the learning process. Field excursions engaged student interest by exploring coastal ecosystems and assisted with the understanding of ecosystem structure and function, coastal development, and marine research. The capstone project reinforced all class activities by relating environmental sustainability to the socio-economic and environmental issues previously explored. Civic engagement opportunities helped students leave the course as engaged citizens who are willing to apply their knowledge to meaningful projects that benefit our local informal science education partners.

Figure 3. Mapping teaching strategies used within the course design to student practice, learning, and contributions to the learning environment.

Virtual “Oceanographic Research Cruise” Capstone Project

Teams of students“virtually participate” in an oceanographic research expedition that visits a particular location of geological importance on the planet. The task reads: “You have been assigned positions aboard an oceanographic vessel exploring the far reaches of the planet! Your crew will arrive at a marine destination to use as your case study. At this location, your crew will explore and research the factors shaping the region as related to the information you learn in this class. At the end of your ‘research cruise,’ crews will present at our ‘Oceanographic Exploration and Research Collection Symposium!’ Collectively, we will explore the globe in its entirety, learning about the marine systems worldwide! You will incorporate concepts related to physical and chemical oceanography, marine geology, and marine ecology into your learning adventure!” The final project is submitted via a student-created webpage that summarizes the team’s virtual research expedition. The primary intention is to apply course content and learning in a social setting to a specific location that is unique to each team of students.

Ecosystems Visit Field Study and Formal Lab Report

In class, small groups of students chose a theme to investigate for a field research project. At this point, students brainstormed the parameters of the theme and arrived at a research question, formulating a testable hypothesis and designing an experiment to test their hypothesis. The instructor facilitated discussions and helped students choose gear that was needed for the field studies. Each student group created their own study and all groups worked their way through the scientific method during this project. At a field location, students collected their data and replicated their studies in multiple locations. Students created a formal lab report (complete with Excel graphs, figures, and tables) that summarized their research. Major academic concepts covered in this project included

  1. Natural Goods and Services
  2. Ecosystem Structure and Function
  3. Water Quality
  4. Limiting Factors
  5. Beach Profiles
  6. Flora and Fauna Analyses
  7. Estuarine Ecosystems Ecology
  8. Intertidal Zone, Beaches, and Dunes Evaluation
  9. Coastal Urbanization and Habitat Loss
  10. Environmental Sustainability
  11. Land Ethic and Wilderness Values
  12. Marine Conservation

Students were given ownership of this exercise from start to finish, and they explored the natural world the way a scientist would by applying their previous learning to real-world research opportunities.

Human Impacts Project

Breakout groups were formed, and each group was assigned a topic related to a human impact on the marine environment. Phase I (“Background Explorations—A Literature Scavenger Hunt”) included a literature review, where each group located peer-reviewed journal articles related to their topic. From this research, the breakout group synthesized a definition of the impact, explained why it is a problem in the context of an exponentially-growing human population, and described how future decisions should be made differently to improve the situation related to the negative human impact. During Phase II of the project (“From Jigsaw to Podcast”), new groups were formed so that each new group contained students who researched a different human impact during the first phase (similar to a “jigsaw” method of teaching). Students now assumed the role of “expert” for their original topic and they had to teach the new group about that human impact. Once the students had explained their synthesis from Phase I, the new group created an educational podcast script that was three minutes in length and appropriate for an audience of middle-school-aged children. To create the script, students had to summarize all of the human impact topics represented in their new group by answering the following questions:

  1. What is the size of the current human population and what is meant by exponential population growth?
  2. What are examples of modern-day human influences on the marine world?
  3. How and why are these human impacts a problem for the marine world under the context of an exponentially growing human population?
  4. Explain what humans can do differently in regard to future decisions made about ocean impacts.

This project helps students critically examine scientific research, use higher-order thinking skills, and produce educational content for a younger generation.

High-impact Learning Opportunities: Service-learning Projects and Civic Engagement

Partnering with regional informal science education centers, students assisted with tasks that met community needs by participating in field-based service-learning projects. These projects allowed students the opportunity to visualize previous human impacts on coastal ecosystems and mitigate the damage. Using “prompt” questions, students reflected on their experience in a written deliverable that connected their service-learning experiences to their learning in the course and personal development.   In previous iterations, students also delivered oral presentations with the regional partners in attendance. Serving the needs of the community and learning how to take a leadership role in civic engagement are the primary goals of this high-impact project.

Matching Emerging Technologies to Course Outcomes

A main focus of this course redesign was to match the use of appropriate technologies with non-traditional pedagogical strategies (table 2). Careful thought was given to the choice of technology in the course delivery and to desired outcomes. A description of the chosen technologies follows.

Reusable Learning Objects (RLOs): Traditional lecture sessions were replaced with web-based digital Reusable Learning Objects (RLO’s) that were created by the instructor. These highly-interactive presentations with audio, animated figures, text, pictures, and illustrations supplemented the curriculum and enhanced the experience of students by providing an interactive learning environment with real-time assessment and feedback.

GIS Mapping Software: A variety of Geographic Information Systems (GIS)-based learning opportunities were embedded within the course design. Students interpreted patterns they observed and improved their spatial analysis skills. They created their own maps of coastal ecosystems and water quality summaries by using handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers and cloud-based GIS mapping software.

Podcasting: A podcast is an audio or video file that is broadcast over the internet. Following in-depth research on human impacts on the marine world, students created three-minute educational podcasts that are sharable with a younger audience.

Web 2.0 Tools (Weebly, Prezi, Blogs, etc.): Students used free Web 2.0 tools to create their own presentations and webpages. Using these tools, students went from passive acceptors of knowledge to active producers of learning content, which helped them utilize higher-order thinking skills.

Online Database Literature Searches: Students are expected to evaluate evidence and find reputable sources of scientific information. Peer-reviewed literature database searches were required throughout the course and exposed students to discipline-appropriate writing styles and the importance of the peer-review process.

TwitterTM Discussions: TwitterTM is a social networking system designed for quick comments and interactions. Students engaged in out-of-classroom discussions that followed face-to-face sessions and introduced upcoming class topics.

eTexts, Smartphones, and Tablet Computers: A variety of hardware choices by students facilitated the learning process. Our classroom was not conceptualized as a four-walled room with desks, but instead reached far beyond the traditional setup and allowed for real-time explorations of internet content and just-in-time teaching moments related to current events. While all course components are currently available for use on a tablet or computer via the learning management system, not all students own such a device, and any hardware choice by the student was acceptable.

SALG Survey and Data Analysis (Methods)

A Pre- and Post- Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG) survey was conducted to gain anonymous student perspectives on the course redesign. Students from single course, in each of two different semesters, was included in this analysis. Surveys included questions related to Knowledge, Skills, and Integration of Learning. Mean scores with Standard Errors were calculated for each question and compared across semesters. Table 3 displays the questions used in the SALG surveys. Because students withdraw from classes during the semester, the pre- and post- surveys have slightly different sample sizes. Results from the SALG surveys allowed for omnibus comparisons and cross-semester evaluations. Students were given an opportunity for free-write responses, as well, though those comments are not included in this manuscript.

Results

During the Fall 2011 semester, 77% of students self-reported GPA’s > 3.01 and 92% stated they were non-science majors (nFall 2011 Pre: 69; nFall 2011 Post: 59). During the Spring 2012 semester, 52% of students self-reported GPA’s > 3.01 and 95% stated they were non-science majors (nSpring2012 Pre: 60; n  t: 58).

Students responded to questions designed to measure their own perception of their understanding of core academic content (table 3—“Understanding” section). Across semesters, similar trends emerged. Students entered the course at or near the “Somewhat” comfortable level with their understanding of core academic concepts in all measured categories; students in both classes left the course feeling “A Lot” to “A Great Deal” more comfortable with their own understanding of core academic concepts (fig. 4). Students responded to questions designed to measure their own assessment of “Skills Development” (table 3—“Skills” section). Across semesters the data indicated that students entered the course at or near the “Somewhat” comfortable level with their perceptions of skills development; students in both classes left the course feeling “A Lot” to “A Great Deal” more comfortable with their own perceptions of skills development (fig 5). One specific skill (“Work Effectively with Others”) displayed no change in the pre- and post- surveys in either the Fall 2011 or Spring 2012 semesters (fig. 5).

Figure 4. Pre- and Post-SALG survey results from two semesters comparing “Understanding of Core Academic Concepts.” Question numbers on the x-axis can be cross-referenced with the actual questions in Table 3. Students responded with a 1-6 score, as illustrated on the y-axis (1=N/A; 2=Not at All; 3=Just a Little; 4=Somewhat; 5=A Lot; 6=A Great Deal). Mean and SE are reported.
Figure 5. Pre- and Post-SALG survey results from two semesters comparing “Skills Development.” Question numbers on the x-axis can be cross-referenced with the actual questions in Table 3. Students responded with a 1-6 score, as illustrated on the y-axis (1=N/A; 2=Not at All; 3=Just a Little; 4=Somewhat; 5=A Lot; 6=A Great Deal). Mean and SE are reported.

Embedded within this course were opportunities for civic engagement, GIS exercises to enhance geospatial analysis skills, and collaborative learning experiences for students. The omnibus dataset (table 3) reveals that students showed a strong increase in their understanding of how civic engagement activities help connect course content to real-world scenarios (MeanPre = 4.160 vs. MeanPost = 5.250).

GIS and geoliteracy skills were enhanced as students demonstrated a strengthened skillset related to their abilities to interpret GIS images to identify patterns (MeanPre = 2.879 vs. MeanPost = 4.448). Student attitudes remained neutral toward activity-based learning (MeanPre = 4.821 vs. MeanPost = 4.800). However, student perspective related to project- based learning displayed an increase (MeanPre = 4.353 vs. MeanPost = 4.650).

Figure 6. Pre- and Post-SALG survey results from two semesters comparing “Integration of Learning.” Question numbers on the x-axis can be cross-referenced with the actual questions in Table 3. Students responded with a 1-6 score, as illustrated on the y-axis (1=N/A; 2=Not at All; 3=Just a Little; 4=Somewhat; 5=A Lot; 6=A Great Deal). Mean and SE are reported.

Helping students integrate their new knowledge is an important goal in a general education course and is a key factor in matching teaching strategies to student practice, learning, and contributions to the learning environment (fig. 3). Students were asked if they were in the habit of connecting key ideas they learn in their classes with other knowledge, of applying what they learn in classes to other situations, of using systematic reasoning in their approach to problems, and of using a critical approach to analyzing data and arguments in their daily lives (table 3—“Integration of Learning” section). Learner perspectives showed an increase in each of these four categories related to the student integration of learning (fig. 6 and table 3 – “Integration of Learning” section).

Discussion

Spatially and technologically, tomorrow’s classroom will be very different from today’s, and the academic tools used in it may not yet even exist (McGee and Diaz 2007; Green 2012; Bolduc-Simpson and Simpson 2012). Yet we currently have many opportunities to engage modern learners with a variety of innovative strategies (Kuh 2008) and learner-friendly technological devices. We must continue to evaluate and assess the incorporation of emerging technologies into curricula redesigns, to ensure their academic soundness and their effectiveness in increasing student engagement. Entry-level STEM courses, like the one described in this article, provide us with the opportunity to transform the science education experience for reluctant learners (Green 2012).

Brundiers et al. (2010) stated the importance of embedding “real-world learning opportunities” into general education courses with an environmental sustainability focus. Overall, students responded favorably to project-based learning in this course redesign. When performing their own assessments, students clearly indicated an increased confidence in their learning gains. Increased skills development (critical thinking, communication, collaborative learning, and social interactions), which contributes to career and professional readiness, was demonstrated, as was an increase in integrating course content by connecting information gained in this course to other knowledge. Likewise, students perceived an increase in their ability to connect their knowledge gains from this class to other situations. In using the scientific method as a guide, students verified that they now are beginning to use systematic reasoning in their approaches to problem solving. Consistent with previous studies, students associated with this course redesign began to understand how civic engagement activities help connect course content to real-world scenarios that made course material relevant to them (Jacoby 2009; Green 2012).

While this course redesign was successful in many ways, it is important to recognize that not every student responds favorably to an inverted classroom design supported by technology. Most students are accustomed to note-taking during a traditional lecture, and any alteration to this structure makes some students uncomfortable. While these changes may not excite a student (as indicated in SALG Attitudes question about activity-based learning), other data presented in this paper show that learning did indeed take place. It is equally important to recognize that not all students learn in the same way, and some may not respond positively to non-traditional teaching strategies. This, however, is true of any teaching method, and it remains the responsibility of the instructor to adjust, assist, and guide each individual learner in the classroom, as needed. The instructor must also remember that learning happens at different paces, and that some students respond slowly to independent learning strategies that differ from their traditional classroom experiences, especially if they lack self-motivation. There are access issues with technology that must be understood by the instructor (i.e. costs, lack of ownership, etc.). Some students lack digital skills, and we must not assume that all have the same knowledge and experience when it comes to using digital tools, software, and hardware. Indeed, Toledo (2007) states that not all students are interested in a technologically-immersed learning environment, regardless of age or exposure. While the challenges listed here are not prohibitive, they must be understood for a successful course redesign aimed at increasing student engagement in the learning process.

In this study, emerging technologies proved to be an effective complement to the curriculum. Student responses generally showed an increase in learning and an increased confidence in subject matter as a result of the flipped classroom model that used emerging technologies as a teaching supplement. Classrooms tended to be lively, with animated students who were actively producing content. This is a much different scene from a traditional classroom with slideshows, dimmed lights, and quiet students taking notes. Thanks to the increased opportunities for one-on-one interactions during the face-to-face class time, struggling students were identified early in the learning process and assisted with their skills development and knowledge gains. This is consistent with Prunuske et al. (2012), who stated that they were able to spend more classroom time assisting students with higher- order learning development.

Using an inverted classroom delivery model required that the role of the instructor be modified into that of an academic facilitator, one who actively guides, rather than one who spouts information from the front of the room. Because self-motivated students were essential to the success of the course, there were challenges. “Borderline chaos” was tolerated in this active-learning scenario, yet the student energy was harnessed and used in a positive manner. Typically, breakout groups of students worked independently while the instructor circulated through the classroom. As a result, there was less reliance on slideshows and formal lectures. Instead, discussions, interactive exercises, and activity-based learning opportunities were emphasized, to promote student engagement and concept retention. Students must still be provided with proper guidance that includes “cognitive presence, teacher presence, and social presence” (Garrison and Cleveland-Innes 2005). Extra time and care should be given by the instructor to explain the new teaching methods, why they are important to the students, and what the learning outcomes are. Innovative teaching methods aside, best practices in teaching must be continued, which means that, regardless of pedagogical strategies, traditional study skills still need to be emphasized for proper learner development. (Brill and Park 2008; McGee and Reis 2012).

Many students have some underlying interest in the course on the first day, yet these same students may have had earlier experiences in science classes that alienated them. Some arrive with preconceived notions about what science is and isn’t. This interrupts their learning until the instructor can find ways to break through these barriers and reach the learner. Connecting textbook material with real world scenarios, case studies, and interactive exercises promotes stronger interest in the learning process and provides students with ownership of the class. Service-learning projects make students feel a sense of pride and accomplishment by directly serving the needs of regional organizations. Reaching reluctant learners and exciting them about science is an embraceable challenge that can be accomplished through the right mix of teaching methods and curricula design (Strayer 2012).

Learner-centered approaches to teaching were employed that relied upon innovative web-based techniques. By matching appropriate emerging technologies with learning outcomes in a STEM education classroom for non-science majors, reluctant students were reached and excited; these students were able to connect course content to other classes and to their daily lives, making their experience relevant and worthwhile. Gaining insight from students about the academic experience by understanding their perspectives is important as faculty experiment with new teaching strategies. To promote best practices in teaching, assessing learning gains and demonstrating student successes is an important follow-up for faculty members who experiment with non-traditional teaching methods and approaches. The incorporation of emerging technology into the course redesign allowed students to engage in a variety of learner-centered approaches designed to increase their knowledge, skills, and integration of learning. While students were neutral in their feelings toward activity-based learning, they displayed an increase in their enthusiasm toward project-based learning, which indicates that a successful social and collaborative learning environment was established with this course redesign. Student spatial skills were enhanced through the use of GIS mapping exercises and academic content was connected to their daily lives via a service-learning project at a coastal salt marsh, indicating student uses of higher-order thinking skills (Bloom 1956; Fink 2003). Our current students are our future decision-makers and leaders. It is vital to give them the tools they need to be well-rounded professionals who are educated and technologically advanced, and who approach their lives with ecological perspectives. As faculty members, it is our responsibility to ensure the teaching strategies we employ are as advanced and innovative as possible. Taking the time to understand the student perspective on innovative course redesigns can enable us to enhance the learning environment for all and might just help us save some of those reluctant science students.

Acknowledgements

A SENCER Post-Institute Implementation Award and an FGCU General Education Council Course Redesign Faculty Award helped fund this project. The authors wish to thank Douglas Spencer, Jessica Rhea, Mike Savarese, Donna Henry, Elspeth McCulloch, Aswani Volety, and the “ Tablet Computer Teaching Cell” at FGCU. Terry Cain, Lee County Parks and Recreation, and the Conservation 2020 Program assisted with civic engagement projects and field excursion logistics. Finally, many thanks to the “Students-as-Partners” who make this work possible and worthwhile! This study was completed at Florida Gulf Coast University before the lead author moved to the University of Miami.

About the Authors

David Green is an Instructional Designer for the Academic Technologies department at the University of Miami, where he is responsible for consulting with, guiding, and supporting faculty in the design and delivery of technology-enhanced courses and co-curricular activities. He is responsible for helping to design, develop, and implement the “Cane Academy,” which is a new initiative at the UM Miller School of Medicine to “flip the classroom” using short instructional videos coupled with companion assessment exercises. As a SENCER Leadership Fellow, he authored a SENCER   Model   Course   and has retrofit multiple university-level classes using the SENCER approach to pedagogy, assessed student response and engagement to the course redesigns, and helped recruit new faculty members to the program.

Jennifer Sparrow is the Senior Director for Teaching and Learning Technology (TLT) at Penn State University. TLT works to help PSU faculty take advantage of information technology to enrich the educational experiences of their students and to champion the creative and innovative uses of technology for teaching, learning, and research. She was previously Senior Director of Networked Knowledge Ventures and Emerging Technologies at Virginia Tech. For more than 15 years, she has championed the use of technology to engage students in the learning process. She has a passion for working with faculty to explore new technologies and their potential implementations in teaching and learning. She loves working with faculty who are willing to push the boundaries of the leading edge of technology in teaching, learning, and research. Her current projects involve the convergence of technologies and learning spaces to create interactive and engaged learning opportunities. Jennifer’s conversations around technology focus on increasing digital fluency for students, faculty, and life-long learners.

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Winter 2015: From the Editors

The Winter 2015 issue of Science Education and Civic Engagement: An International Journal presents five project reports that examine a rich diversity of approaches to embedding science education within a civic context. Three of the articles describe the innovative use of technologies to enhance student engagement and learning.

David Green (University of Miami) and Jennifer Sparrow (Pennsylvania State University) explain how they utilized emerging technologies in a marine science course for non-majors, which was organized around the theme of environmental sustainability. The instructors employed a “flipped classroom” approach, along with integration of Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping software, Twitter, podcasting, and several other Web 2.0 tools. These approaches provide students with an opportunity to develop their collaborative and communication skills in the context of real-world learning.

Joseph Liddicoat (City College of New York) and Peter Bower (Barnard College) contribute an account of how they adapted the successful Brownfield Action simulation as an online course for non-traditional students. This case study examines the educational creativity that is required to convert classroom-based experiences to a set of effective online activities.

Robert M. Sanford andJoseph K. Staples (both at the University of Southern Maine) describe a self-guided, experiential field course based on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, which extends from upper New York State to Northern Maine. During at least 10 days on the canoe trail, students participate in a Google+ community of paddlers and complete reflective online postings. This course shows how “distance education” does not need to employ traditional pedagogies; instead, it can provide a different type of educational experience.

Charles Greenberg (Murrysville County Library) and his collaborators present a project in which they use a community library as a local hub for the integration of K-8 STEM education into a summer reading program with complementary hands-on activities. They developed and implemented training workshops for librarians, administrators, and volunteers based on national standards in mathematics, science, and English language arts. By using children’s literature as used as an entry point for exploring specific math and science concepts, this project demonstrates how literacy and math/science education can be mutually complementary and reinforcing.

Farah Movahedzadeh (Harold Washington College) and her co-authors offer a course that uses the Chicago River as a site of civic engagement. Using the principles of project-based learning, students collect water samples and analyze them for the presence of bacteria. By performing authentic data collection, students developed foundational skills in microbiology within a meaningful context.

In conclusion, we wish to thank all the authors of these reports for sharing their interesting work with the readers of this journal.

(Coming Soon: Table of Contents with Individual Article Pages)

Trace Jordan
— Eliza Reilly
Co-Editors-in-Chief

 

 

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