Collaborative Research: Science Modeling through Physical Computing:Contextualized Computational and Scientific Learning in the Grade 5-6 Classroom
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As computing has become integral to the practice of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), the STEM+Computing program seeks to address emerging challenges in computational STEM areas through the applied integration of computational thinking and computing activities within STEM teaching and learning in early childhood education through high school (preK-12). In this STEM+C project students will build science models to learn both science and computing in grades 5 and 6. Students will engage with computation to imbue physical models with functionality that represent various state, static, dynamic, and semantic scientific phenomena. A double-scaffolding strategy will be employed to simultaneously support scientific and computing learning in formal classrooms. First, learning will be scaffolded through students'' construction of computational physical models (CMPs) to support understanding of formal science topics and develop model-based thinking. Second, the program will support a learning progression in computing to build the CMPs that is practice-oriented, with new concepts added to complete each set of successive models. The representational nature of science models will make abstract concepts concrete, and the use of multiple models for each concept will give students greater flexibility in understanding the concept in different representations. The project will be carried out longitudinally over two years in two public intermediate schools that serve predominantly underrepresented populations. Teachers will receive professional development using multiple science models and language and pedagogy that highlight the representational power of models. To support teaching computational content, the project will develop a Mentor Corps of college STEM students to work in collaboration with teachers in the classroom. Computational modeling activities will be integrated into the regular science classes, matching the models that the students build with the existing curriculum. The project research will examine the impact of the program on 1) learning science concepts through modeling, 2) learning computational constructs and developing computation as a habit of mind, and 3) the development of both science and computation identities. An array of data sources will be gathered from both treatment and control classrooms in each school, including knowledge assessments and surveys, semi-structured interviews, and video-taped observations of students'' model construction. Both qualitative and quantitative analyses will be conducted to address the research questions and identify differences between groups. Findings will be broadly disseminated to research and practitioner audiences, and instructional materials and resources will be freely accessible. 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.