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ECHOS: Early Childhood Hands on Science

Year: 2010
Name of Institution:
Miami Museum of Science
Goal: Efficacy and Replication
Principal Investigator:
Brown, Judy
Award Amount: $2,999,904
Award Period: 4 years
Award Number: R305A100275


Co-Principal Investigator: Daryl Greenfield, University of Miami

Purpose: In recent years, early childhood education has emphasized children's school readiness in the domains of language, literacy, and mathematics. To date, there has been limited systematic focus on science education in preschool. There is a need for the development, implementation, and evaluation of preschool science curricula that will promote young children's understanding of basic science concepts. The purpose of this project is to conduct an efficacy study of a comprehensive early childhood science curriculum and professional development program.

Project Activities: The research team will evaluate the efficacy of the Early Childhood Hands-On Science (ECHOS) curriculum. The curriculum will be delivered by Head Start classroom teachers who will be randomly assigned to implement the ECHOS curriculum or typical instruction. Members of the research team will collect data at the child, teacher and classroom levels, and conduct analyses to evaluate the effect of the ECHOS preschool science curriculum on children's academic outcomes, and on teachers' attitudes about science, science knowledge, and science teaching.

Products: Products include data which describe the effects of the ECHOS curriculum on children's academic outcomes and teachers' science knowledge and instructional practices. The study findings will be presented at research conferences and in published papers.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will take place in 90 urban Head Start preschool classrooms in Florida.

Population: Study participants will include 90 Head Start teachers and approximately 1800 children, most of whom are African-American (55%) and Hispanic (35%).

Intervention: The ECHOS curriculum is a comprehensive early childhood science curriculum and professional development program. The curriculum consists of nine units, focused on Life, Earth, and the Physical Sciences. Each unit is delivered over a month-long period, providing curriculum for an entire year .Each unit includes an Overview; Teacher Background Information; four lessons with detailed setup instructions and scripts; and Integration Cards (i Cards) that guide activities for teachers, teacher's aides or volunteers. The i Cards are designed to integrate language, literacy, math, and creative arts related to the science content. Units are sequenced to present increasingly more complex science process skills. A learning sequence provides teachers with a logical structure to follow when delivering lessons. The curriculum approach combines direct instruction with guided inquiry-based science experiences and exploration.

Research Design and Methods: Ninety Head Start teachers and their classrooms will be selected to participate in the study- 45 randomly assigned to the Treatment Group (High Scope + ECHOS) and 45 to the business-as-usual Control Group (High Scope + High Scope Science). In Year 1, participating teachers will be asked to complete a measure of teachers' attitudes towards science. Baseline classroom observations will be conducted in treatment and control group classrooms. Curriculum materials and researcher-developed measures will be finalized for use during Years 2 to 4 of the study. In Years 2 and 3, teachers and teaching assistants in the treatment condition will receive training to implement the ECHOS curriculum. Teachers in the control group will receive training to implement the High Scope curriculum. In Years 2 and 3, two cohorts of children will be recruited and assessed .Each year, ten children will be randomly selected from each of the 90 participating classrooms to participate in the student assessment protocol .Participating children will be pretested at the beginning of the school year. Their progress in science will be measured throughout the year, with post testing at the end of the preschool year .Data will be collected to examine teachers' attitudes toward science and their classroom teaching practices. Teachers will be asked to complete curriculum implementation logs and observational data will be collected to examine fidelity of implementation.

Control Condition: In the control condition, children will receive the High Scope plus High Scope Science curriculum. High Scope is a comprehensive preschool curriculum that is widely used in preschool programs. The curriculum includes a set of teaching practices, curriculum content areas (approaches to learning; language and literacy; social and emotional development; physical development; health and well-being; arts and sciences), assessment tools and a teacher training program model. Teachers will receive professional development based on the High Scope curriculum model. In the intervention condition, science instruction will be delivered weekly through scripted lessons and integrated activities. In the control condition, there is no specified time for science instruction. Teachers will receive general information about science instruction as part of the High Scope curriculum model.

Key Measures: The measures include direct child assessments, teacher ratings of participating children, a teacher survey, and classroom observations. Children's understanding of science content knowledge and science process skills will be assessed using the Science Direct Assessment. The Learning Express will be used to assess children's vocabulary, mathematics, listening comprehension, and alphabet skills. Teachers will use the Galileo System for the Electronic Management of Learning, an online system will be used to track children's development and growth, to record child-level school readiness data in fall and spring of the preschool year. Teachers will be asked to complete the Early Childhood Teachers' Attitudes Toward Science Questionnaire. Classroom observations will be conducted in both treatment and control classrooms using the Preschool Science Classroom Observation Tool.

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will use hierarchical linear modeling to examine the impact of the ECHOS curriculum on children's science, math and language and literacy achievement. Analyses will also be conducted to examine the impact of the professional development on teachers' attitudes towards science, their science knowledge, and their teaching practices.

Related IES Projects: Early Childhood Hands-On Science Curriculum Development and Demonstration (R305K060036) and Lens on Science: Development and Validation of a Computer-Administered, Adaptive, IRT-Based Science Assessment for Preschool Children (R305A090502)