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IES Grant

Title: The Scientific Literacy Project: Enhancing Young Children's Scientific Literacy Through Reading and Inquiry-Centered Adult-Child Dialogue
Center: NCER Year: 2005
Principal Investigator: Mantzicopoulos, Panayota Awardee: Purdue University
Program: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years Award Amount: $1,490,693
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305K050038

Co-Principal Investigators: Helen Patrick and Ala Samarapungavan

By fourth grade, students from minority and economically disadvantaged backgrounds lag behind white, middle-class students in science achievement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. This research team seeks to develop a preschool science curriculum that would better prepare young children for later science learning. They are creating and pilot testing a comprehensive instructional program designed to enhance preschool and kindergarten children's early scientific literacy.

Structured Abstract

Purpose: The primary purpose of this project is to better prepare young children for later science learning. The Nation's Report Card documents that by fourth grade, students from minority and economically disadvantaged backgrounds lag behind white, middle-class students in science achievement. To work on addressing this problem, this research team plans to develop, pilot, and implement a comprehensive instructional program designed to enhance preschool and kindergarten children's early scientific literacy. The Scientific Literacy Project intervention will have both a school and a home component and will be built around science topics and skills linked to state and national standards for preschool and kindergarten curricula.

Setting: Participants will be kindergarten students, their teachers, and their parents from two neighboring school districts in central Indiana.. These programs serve an increasingly ethnically diverse population (22% Hispanic) and high overall poverty status (63% of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch).

Population: It is estimated that 130 kindergarten intervention and 130 comparison children and families will participate in the main study.

Intervention: The Scientific Literacy Project school component will involve six units that address major themes in early science learning (i.e., the five senses, animals, insects, plants, the environment, and weather and seasons). Each unit will consist of a 5-week inquiry cycle comprising three phases (pre-inquiry, inquiry, post-inquiry). Each inquiry cycle will be structured to relate the science learning from the specific unit to the overarching curricular themes through multiple related inquiry and literacy activities. Across all units, the program emphasizes teacher-child dialog in association with science literacy and inquiry activities. The 30-week home component will be coordinated with the classroom curriculum and will consist of weekly science-book-reading activities between parents and children.

Research Design and Methods: The research will proceed in three distinct phases: A development phase (Year 1), a pilot phase (Year 2), and an evaluation phase (Year 3). During the first year, six thematic science units grounded in developmentally appropriate inquiry and literacy activities will be developed. In addition, during this phase the researchers will also (a) finalize the training workshop for teachers and parents and (b) develop and pilot student learning and performance measures to be used in subsequent years.

In Year 2, the researchers will conduct a small experimental study to test the pilot version of the intervention. 12 kindergarten teachers will be randomly assigned to the intervention condition, and equal numbers to the comparison condition. Those classrooms selected to implement the SLP curriculum will serve as pilot sites in Year 2 and as implementation sites in Year 3.

In Year 3, the researchers will evaluate the Science Literacy intervention and conduct research activities in the classrooms of the 24 teachers (12 SLP and 12 comparison) who participated in the pilot phase of this project. Fidelity of implementation will be assessed through (a) classroom observations and (b) analysis of weekly videotapes of classroom activities. Fidelity of implementation for the home component will be tracked by means of (a) bi-weekly checklists from parents noting activities completed for each assignment and (b) analysis of three videotaped sessions of story-book reading.

Comparison Condition: Participants in the comparison condition will receive their existing classroom curriculum (practice-as-usual). The nature of the science learning practices in control classrooms will be thoroughly documented via classroom observations and other data collection methods.

Key Measures: Standardized, experimenter-designed, and observational measures of children's developing science knowledge, self-efficacy, and motivation will be employed. In addition, the study will also include a wide range of teacher, parent, and classroom measures as well.

Data Analytic Strategy: Changes in academic, social-motivational, and science engagement outcomes for intervention and comparison children will be analyzed by means of a series of repeated factorial multivariate analyses of variance (MANOVA). This development project is intended only to obtain evidence of the potential efficacy of the intervention; initial analyses will be at the level of the student.


Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Mantzicopoulos, P., and Patrick, H. (2010). The Seesaw is a Machine That Goes Up and Down: Young Children's Narrative Responses to Science-Related Informational Text. Early Education and Development, 21(3): 412–444.

Mantzicopoulos, P., and Patrick, H. (2011). Reading Picture Books and Learning Science: Engaging Young Children With Informational Text. Theory into Practice, 50(4): 269–276.

Mantzicopoulos, P., Patrick, H., and Samarapungavan, A. (2008). Young Children's Motivational Beliefs About Learning Science. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 23(3): 378–394.

Mantzicopoulos, P., Patrick, H., and Samarapungavan, A. (2013). Science Literacy in School and Home Contexts: Kindergarteners' Science Achievement and Motivation. Cognition and Instruction, 31(1): 62–119.

Mantzicopoulos, P., Samarapungavan, A., and Patrick, H. (2009). We Learn how to Predict and be a Scientist: Early Science Experiences and Kindergarten Children's Social Meanings About Science. Cognition and Instruction, 27(4): 312–369.

Patrick, H., Mantzicopoulos, P., and Samarapungavan, A. (2009). Motivation for Learning Science in Kindergarten: Is There a Gender Gap and Does Integrated Inquiry and Literacy Instruction Make a Difference?. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 46(2): 166–191.

Patrick, H., Mantzicopoulos, P., and Samarapungavan, A. (2009). Reading, Writing, and Conducting Inquiry About Science in Kindergarten. Young Children, 64(6): 32–38.

Patrick, H., Mantzicopoulos, P., Samarapungavan, A., and French, B.F. (2008). Patterns of Young Children's Motivation for Science and Teacher-Child Relationships. Journal of Experimental Education, 76(2): 121–144.

Samarapungavan, A., Mantzicopoulos, P., and Patrick, H. (2008). Learning Science Through Inquiry in Kindergarten. Science Education, 92: 868–908.

Samarapungavan, A., Mantzicopoulos, P., Patrick, H., and French, B.F. (2009). The Development and Validation of the Science Learning Assessment (SLA): A Measure of Kindergarten Science Learning. Journal of Advanced Academics, 20(3): 502–535.

Samarapungavan, A., Patrick, H., and Mantzicopoulos, P. (2011). What Kindergarten Students Learn in Inquiry-Based Science Classrooms. Cognition and Instruction, 29(4): 416–470.