Sonoma State University

Learning by Making: STEM Success for Mendocino County

The project is designed to develop a two-year science-driven, computational-thinking, integrated-based science, technology, engineering, and mathematics curriculum that improves mathematical and science proficiency. To do so, the project applies constructionist learning philosophy to go beyond traditional project-based learning curricula through a fusion of mathematical skill building and Logo-based computational thinking applied to real-world scientific problems.

Description of Project

Through Learning by Making, we will develop a two-year science-driven, computational-thinking, integrated-based science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curriculum that improves mathematical and science proficiency for 485 high-need rural students in six Mendocino County, California, high schools. Learning by Making applies constructionist learning philosophy to go beyond traditional project-based learning curricula through a fusion of mathematical skill building and Logo-based computational thinking applied to real-world scientific problems. Project goals for Learning by Making include (1) develop two year-long integrated high school STEM courses that will be accepted as elective credit for university eligibility in California, (2) train at least half of the science and mathematics teachers in our partner schools to successfully deliver the curriculum, and (3) improve math and science proficiency by 15 percent for students enrolled in the new courses at each school. Comprehensive evaluation of our work by STEM experts at WestEd will add to the growing knowledge bases defining the effectiveness of computational thinking within STEM courses and of the integration of new science and mathematics practice standards. The partners for Learning by Making include Sonoma State Universty (SSU), a non-profit institution of higher education, six rural high schools, the Mendocino County Office of Education, a rural local education agency, and Logo curriculum specialists in the private sector.

Description of Evaluation

WestEd will evaluate implementation of the Learning by Making project and will conduct impact studies. During implementation, WestEd observed teacher professional development institutes, reviewed curriculum, and provided timely feedback and conducted focus groups and interviews with teachers. Beginning in fall 2015, WestEd will observe instruction of the newly developed course titled “STEM Integrated Science Laboratory Course” with topics in environmental science and biology. For the impact study, students’ progress will be tracked on California Assessments of Student Performance and Progress in math and science. Evaluation of the first course built on environmental science and biology themes will continue through subsequent year offerings, as well as through the implementation and offering of another year-long STEM curriculum focused on chemistry and physics.