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Science in the Learning Gardens
Portland State University
Science in the Learning Gardens: Factors that Support Ethnic and Racial Minority Students’ Success in Low-Income Middle Schools
NSF Award #: 1418270
To address the troubling trends of underrepresentation of ethnic and racial minority students, especially African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native-Americans, in STEM and of student disengagement in schools, Portland State University and Portland Public School District are partnering in the creation of “Science in the Learning Gardens (SciLG): Factors that Support Ethnic and Racial Minority Students’ Success in Low-Income Middle Schools.” SciLG brings together two recent education movements: alignment of science curriculum, instruction, and assessment with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS); and a surge of national interest in school gardens for academic learning.
SciLG is unique in the following ways: (1) Unlike many school garden programs that focus on elementary students, SciLG is offered in grades 6 through 8 at Portland’s Lane and Lent schools, which have 70% to 80% non-white and low-income students. Both schools have gardens. (2) The curriculum is designed to align with NGSS and performance expectations, and school gardens serve as milieu for experiential science learning. (3) An interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, and cross-organizational partnership model is used that includes teachers in its design. (4) Research on motivational engagement is a critical component of the project. We are now in the eighth month of our project, gathering research data on curriculum assessment and motivational engagement. We plan to share the promising outcomes that we are seeing on an ongoing basis.