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Improving Science Literacy Through Project Based K 12 Outreach Efforts That Use Energy And Environmental Themes

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Promoting Scientific and Technological Literacy

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.738.1 - 11.738.17



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Paper Authors


Jan DeWaters Clarkson University

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Jan DeWaters, PE is currently pursuing a PhD degree in Environmental Science and Engineering at Clarkson University, with a focus on energy and environmental education. She has several years of experience as the curriculum coordinator for Clarkson's Project-Based Learning Partnership Program and is director of the Partners in Engineering Program that provides mentoring and engineering activities for eighth grade girls.

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Susan Powers Clarkson University

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Susan E. Powers, PhD, PE is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Assoc Dean in Engineering for Researrch and Graduate studies at Clarkson University. She has directed an NSF-Funded GK-12 Program - Project-Based Learning Partnership Program for the past six years and received the NSF Directors Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholars in 2004.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Improving science literacy through project-based K-12 outreach efforts that use energy and environmental themes

Abstract An educational outreach program uses project-based curricula with environmental themes as a means to engage students and increase their interest and competency in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Engineering and science students from Clarkson University work in partnership with area teachers to develop and teach modules that require students to learn and apply standards-based mathematics and science content and process skills as they work to solve a real-world problem that is relevant to their school or community. A combination of quantitative and qualitative assessment results demonstrate that the program successfully enhances student interest and confidence in STEM, and contributes to measured improvements in mathematics and science achievement scores. Introduction While today’s science instructors struggle to meet the demands of increasingly complex learning standards [1-4] and mandatory high-stakes testing programs, the primary responsibility of any science education program remains: to improve scientific literacy. This is defined by James et al. as “familiarity with science in the wider context of human social affairs.”[5] Students need to emerge from a science education program not only with a sound knowledge base of scientific concepts and phenomena, but also with good scientific process and thinking skills that will enable them to extend their knowledge as they encounter unfamiliar situations, and to critically analyze scientific information to make informed decisions that affect their lives.[6, 7] Science and technology are deeply imbedded in the lives of today’s students, and impact political, technical, and social decisions on a global scale. Scientific and technical literacy will empower students to become responsible citizens in the rapidly changing world in which we live, and will prepare students for effective participation in the decisions and actions that take place in their homes, their communities, and their world.[7] Likewise, literacy within the environmental sciences will prepare students for interpreting and acting on issues related to energy and the environment.

Project based learning has been suggested to present the best case for teaching and learning science process skills and content.[8, 9] The technique has roots in the “learning by doing” approach to education promoted by John Dewey.[10] The curriculum is generally centered around the assignment of a problem or project – students learn, and then apply, science content and skills that are relevant to their project or problem solution. The technique improves student learning and retention of science concepts, largely because students learn more when they are interested and actively involved in what they are doing, and when they understand the relevance of the material to their own lives.[8, 11]

Recent developments in curriculum reform have also promoted the integration of science, technology, and mathematics in an effort to deviate from the traditional, compartmentalized subject structure and move toward learning situations that mimic the real world.[12-14] These reform movements promote the teaching and learning of science process skills, focusing on the “whole of science, upon student mind engagement, upon a reunion of science and technology.”[15] The Science, Technology, and Society (STS) movement further endorses the immersion of integrated science, mathematics and technology content and process skills within a

DeWaters, J., & Powers, S. (2006, June), Improving Science Literacy Through Project Based K 12 Outreach Efforts That Use Energy And Environmental Themes Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--158

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