Science STARS (Stars Tackling Authentic & Relevant Science) is an after-school program that will engage approximately 400 urban middle school girls in authentic inquiry-based scientific investigations and the creation of a science documentary that extends their research and situates their findings. The project has been piloted in Rochester, NY and will be expanded to sites in Lansing, MI and Seattle, WA. New elements have been added to enhance the project experience including the documentary video component, partnerships with local community outreach organizations, mentoring by local female scientists, leveraging embedded assessments to enhance the measurement of learning, and a conference and presentations to local stakeholders to showcase the work of the participants.
Participants will meet during the school year plus three intensive weeks during the summer for a total of about 65 hours per year. A unique feature of this project is the use of pre-service teachers from local teacher preparation programs to facilitate the investigations. This in turn develops the capacity of pre-service teachers to implement and leverage inquiry-based learning in their practice. Project-level research will address questions of how models such as this encourage the development of positive science identities in girls and how situating science investigations in their community affects their understanding of science and local issues. The project evaluation will be conducted by Horizon Research and will focus on the quality of project activities, the quality of the project's research plan, and the impact on participants and pre-service teachers.
Science STARS thoughtfully bridges formal and informal learning environments. While Science STARS largely situates its home base in schools in order to increase access to those who may not self-identify with science, the program is designed to capitalize on the unique affordances of informal settings and contribute to understanding how informal science education can be used to nurture positive science identities for urban middle school girls.