Incorporating urgent issues of social and environmental justice into environmental science teaching can harness youth’s real-world interests and improve their engagement, learning, sense of belonging, and career interests. This may be especially true for students who are directly experiencing the intertwined burdens of structural racism and environmental injustice. This project will adapt and extend successful Solar Suitcase curricula that explicitly link technology learning experiences to environmental science and social purpose. Examples include carbon-neutral energy technologies for electricity generation and transportation, off-grid solar power for disaster preparedness and response, and apps allowing for direct participation in science and supporting community outreach for local resilience projects. Situated in a largely Latinx community, this project explores the transformation of school-wide pedagogy for a high school and feeder middle school through Networked Improvement Community (NIC). The NIC, comprised of teachers, students, community-based organizations, and university faculty, will engage in co-development and improvement science research. If as successful as the focus groups that envisioned it, this project will offer an innovative approach to school-wide transformation. This project is funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts and processes contributing to increasing students' knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers.

Critical transformation learning (CTL) provides the theoretical framework for this project. CTL focuses on how people think, behave and relate to the natural environment, and to the local and global community. As such, CTL-driven educational practices directly address students’ lived socio-historical experience while also considering the climate crisis and its adverse impacts on students’ engagement in learning and connection to society. The team will develop and maintain an NIC that draws on partnerships between teachers, principals, students, community-based organizations, and university faculty. Research participation will include two schools and their principals, 28 teachers and 600 students. Using iterative improvement cycles the NIC will co-create, test, and improve an integrated climate-justice/climate-science curriculum to support student learning, including environmental content knowledge, STEM and ICT engagement and belonging, and related career interest. The curriculum development and implementation are a major activity of the NIC, and the curriculum will be shared widely. However, the primary outcome sought is school-wide transformation, including teacher and student identity as agents of change in the community based on STEM engagement and knowledge. The project will draw on surveys, interviews, audio recordings, classroom observations, field notes and hierarchical linear modeling to investigate whether and how co-creation through an NIC can lead to rapid educational innovation that optimizes whole school, teacher and student outcomes.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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California State University, East Bay Foundation, Inc.
United States
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