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Comp Hydro Profile

Research on Effects of Integrating Computational Science and Model Building in Water Systems Teaching and Learning


As computational capabilities increasingly revolutionize and become integral to the practice of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines, the STEM+Computing (STEM+C) Partnerships program seeks to integrate the use of computational approaches in K-12 STEM teaching and learning. The Comp Hydro project will address the goals of the STEM+C program, as well as an urgent issue facing society: the availability of clean water as an ecosystem service supporting human uses and ecological integrity. The vision of Comp Hydro is to foster water and computational science literacy by integrating authentic, place- and data-based learning as high school students build and use physical, mathematical and conceptual models. The approaches and resources of Comp Hydro will be developed in a broad diversity of settings - types of schools and school systems, student and teacher populations, instructional contexts, and regional challenges and constraints on water quality and availability. Teams in four locations around the country will adapt surface water- and groundwater-themed computer modules to local environmental and school contexts, will pilot test them in high school Earth and environmental science classes, and will partner in education research on student and teacher STEM learning. Approximately 2,400 students will be involved with and benefit from the project. The diverse nature of the participating school districts will both engage a demographically diverse student population in STEM and help the project achieve significant broader impacts, by assuring that the findings and tools developed reflect the needs of a broad diversity of people and places. Through curricular resource creation and professional development for teachers, Comp Hydro will help to build the capacity of each school district to integrate computational and environmental science. Instructional materials based on learning progressions will support students in developing water science literacy required for informed citizen decision-making.

The Comp Hydro project will address one of the most daunting challenges to developing scientific literacy in students: integrating teaching and learning of key ideas and practices of place-based environmental science with computational and quantitative science in authentic, innovative and effective ways. The basic premise of the project is that to achieve model-based reasoning in environmental science, a student needs to concurrently develop more sophisticated computational reasoning. Four curriculum/professional development modules will be developed to integrate Earth system and computational thinking content. They will focus on these computational concepts and practices: ability to access and manipulate data from multiple sources; ability to use computational tools to develop models, analyze data, produce data visualizations, and identify key trends; application of computational reasoning and model-based understanding to construct quantitative, scientific explanations and predictions regarding hydrologic systems. The project will: 1) develop and refine instructional units for surface and groundwater, each comprising two 1-week modules, 2) engage teachers as partners and agents of dissemination, 3) study teacher and student learning, 4) explore supports and constraints on teaching, and 5) build a platform for project research and development and dissemination. The project will engage four teams of 6 teachers, who will work over two school years with educators and scientists at four diverse sites (Arizona, Colorado, Maryland, and Montana). Comp Hydro will utilize a design-based research approach, grounded in learning progressions as a theoretical and methodological frame, for both its research and instructional materials. The project will integrate computational and data sense making practices and understandings into the Water Systems Learning Progression. It will produce a trajectory of learning and associated assessment instruments that can describe how students become more sophisticated with respect to integrated scientific practices, including analyzing, interpreting and representing data; developing and using models; using computational thinking; and constructing scientific explanations and predictions about hydrologic systems. The project also will develop a set of design principles, and an associated computer platform for broader dissemination and for supporting teachers in integrating the use of big and small data sets into meaningful environmental science learning experiences with high school students.