The NeuroMotor Control Lab has partnered with a private grade school in Chicago’s Roger’s Park neighborhood to bring STEM (Science, Engineering, Engineering and Mathematics) and Discovery Learning techniques and resources to children in grades pre-K through 8.  The selection of this pilot school was motivated, in part, because its students previously had received very limited opportunity for guided hands-on exploration using the tools of scientific inquiry.  Moreover, being a private school, the principal had latitude to give us great flexibility in guiding the implementation of a new curriculum, once the teachers were convinced of the potential benefit to their students. Activities have been directed along three lines of effort.

The first involved the development of a state-of-the-art Discovery Learning Lab at the school. We converted an unused classroom into a warm, inviting environment that all students, preK-8, use daily or weekly, depending on grade level. This space supports activities that engage hands and minds through guided self-directed exploration as well as traditional lab-based science activities.  The wet lab has a 7' tall whiteboard "Idea Wall" along the south wall and an Apple MAC-based multimedia system with large-screen display. The lab has weigh scales, microscopes, and storage for science curriculum modules for each of the teachers in the school.

Second, we obtained a local foundation grant to revamp middle school science curriculum and to provide teacher training on the new SEPUP (Science Education for Public Understanding Program) curriculum. SEPUP is an integrated classroom- and lab-based STEM curriculum developed by a not-for-profit organization with funding from the NSF.  SEPUP is an issues-based science curriculum that exceeds state standards in all 50 states.  We are in the second year of a three-year curriculum transition plan. We have assessed the impact on student learning of revising the science curriculum by using TerraNova testing (Science) and historical data on these students (National Percentile per Grade). Prior performance for students in grades 3 – 7 on Science averaged 65%±3.8% (mean ± 1 SD). Current performance for the 8th graders was 81% of National Percentile per Grade, which was 2 SD above past performance for these same students. There was no change for any other class of students or for any other Terra Nova subject area, thus demonstrating the efficacy and specificity of this new curricular initiative.