Curriculum and Community Enterprise for Restoration Sciences: The Expansion and Future of the Model

Lauren Birney, Denise McNamara, Catherine Sanders, Hari Luintel, Joshua Penman


The CCERS partnership includes collaborators from universities, foundations, education departments, community organizations, and cultural institutions to build a new curriculum. As reported in a study conducted by the Rand Corporation (2011), partnerships among districts, community-based organizations, government agencies, local funders, and others can strengthen learning programs. The curriculum merged project-based learning and Bybee’s 5E model (Note 1) to teach core STEM-C concepts to urban middle school students through restoration science. CCERS has five interrelated and complementary programmatic pillars (see details in the next section). The CCERS curriculum encourages urban middle school students to explore and participate in project-based learning activities restoring the oyster population in and around New York Harbor. In Melaville, Berg and Blank’s Community Based Learning (2001) there is a statement that says, “Education must connect subject matter with the places where students live and the issues that affect us all”. Lessons engage students and teachers in long-term restoration ecology and environmental monitoring projects with STEM professionals and citizen scientists. In brief, partners have created curriculums for both in-school and out-of-school learning programs, an online platform for educators and students to collaborate, and exhibits with community partners to reinforce and extend both the educators’ and their students’ learning. Currently CCERS implementation involves:

  • 78 middle schools
  • 127 teachers
  • 110 scientist volunteers
  • Over 5000 K-12 students

In this report, we present summative findings from data collected via surveys among three cohorts of students whose teachers were trained by the project’s curriculum and findings from interviews among project leaders to answer the following research questions:

  1. Do the five programmatic pillars function independently and collectively as a system of interrelated STEM-C content delivery vehicles that also effectively change students’ and educators’ disposition towards STEM-C learning and environmental restoration and stewardship?
  2. What comprises the "curriculum plus community enterprise" local model?
  3. What are the mechanisms for creating sustainability and scalability of the model locally during and beyond its five-year implementation?
  4. What core aspects of the model are replicable?

Findings suggest the program improved students’ knowledge in life sciences but did not have a significant effect on students’ intent to become a scientist or affinity for science.

Interviews with project staff indicated that the key factors in the model were its conservation mission, partnerships, and the local nature of the issues involved. The primary mechanisms for sustainability and scalability beyond the five-year implementation were the digital platform, the curriculum itself, and the dissemination (with over 450 articles related to the project published in the media and academic journals). The core replicable aspects identified were the digital platform and adoption in other Keystone species contexts.

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