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MSU Receives $5M Grant to Improve Elementary Science Teaching

Two Girls (10-12) Looking at a Rack of Test Tubes

Michigan State University researchers and their partners plan to create a model for teaching elementary students science while also improving their skills in math, reading and writing.

The project is funded by a five-year, $5 million grant from Lucas Education Research, a division of the George Lucas Educational Foundation. Executive Director Kristin De Vivo said the goal is to bring the benefits of project-based learning – an approach that encourages kids to explore real-world problems – to more classrooms throughout the nation.

“Educators are in agreement based on classroom experience that project-based learning keeps students engaged and promotes deeper understanding,” said De Vivo. “However, very little research currently exists to prove the benefits of PBL and also to help educators develop and implement this kind of leading-edge curriculum. This grant supports a team with exceptional credentials and ideas.”

Joseph Krajcik, director of Michigan State’s CREATE for STEM Institute, will lead colleagues from MSU and University of Michigan as they design and develop materials for grades 3 and 4. Teachers working in under-resourced communities will assist in testing and enacting the new learning units with as many as 1,800 students over the five years, focusing not only on making the curriculum effective but also personally relevant in students’ lives. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Professor Joseph Krajcik

Joseph Krajcik, director of Michigan State’s CREATE for STEM Institute, will lead a $5 million project to better teach elementary students science while also improving their skills in math and literacy. Photo by Kurt Stepnitz

Krajcik said the project will build on previous research and help teachers make stronger connections between two sets of education standards now being implemented in most states: the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards in language arts and mathematics.

“We are pleased that Lucas Education Research shares our excitement about what project-based learning can do for our schools and our students,” said Krajcik. “This grant makes it possible for us to design a curriculum that will bring science to life for young learners with thoughtful incorporation of literacy, mathematics and learning technologies to promote collaboration and agency.”

“Michigan State University is at the forefront of conducting research on STEM education and applying the results – a pressing need in our state, across the country and around the world,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “We are grateful to the George Lucas Educational Foundation for partnering with us in our quest to enhance STEM skills in students of all ages.”

Literacy researcher Annemarie Sullivan Palincsar, a professor at U-M, is co-principal investigator on the project. Other team members include Deborah Peek-Brown of MSU, Elliot Soloway of U-M and Emily Miller of the University of Wisconsin.

Lauren Ebelt, Joseph Krajcik, Stephanie Motschenbacher and Andy Henion via MSU Today

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