Title: EHR-Polar DCL 2018: Collaborative Research: Polar Literacy: A model for youth engagement and learning

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

Project Lead: Janice McDonnell

Partners: The Franklin Institute, University of Colorado Boulder, Carlton College (SERC), Eidos, and The Ohio State University

Period of Performance: 7/1/19-6/30/22

Total Budget: $929,919

Project Summary:

Polar Literacy: A model for youth engagement and learning will advance the understanding of informal learning environments while leveraging the rich interdisciplinary resources from polar investments made by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The project’s key audiences — polar researchers, informal educators, and out-of-school time (OST) youth in grades 4-7 (ages 9-13) — will connect through both place-based and internet-based experiences and work collaboratively to generate a flexible, scalable, and transferable education model. The project will 1) design OST kits and resource guides (focused on Polar Literacy Principles) and include “Concept in a Minute” videos designed to highlight enduring ideas, 2) provide professional development for informal educators, 3) synthesize a club model through adaptation of successful facets of existing informal learning programs, and 4) create Data Jam events for the OST Special Interest (SPIN) clubs and camp programs by modifying an existing formal education model. A research design, implemented at four nodes over three years, will answer three research questions to evaluate the impact of professional development on informal educators, as well as the impact of programs on youth, and the effectiveness of the model. In addition to the project team and collaborators who are informal education practitioners, an advisory board composed of experts in youth programming, informal education, and evaluation will guide the project to ensure that it advances the body of informal STEM learning research.

Novel Polar CAP interventions will bring the poles to learners by leveraging the availability of real-world scientific data and sensor networks deployed in the Polar Regions. The Polar Literacy Principles (PLP), will serve as the framework for content development and the big ideas the learners should know about the Polar Regions. This effort is comparable and complementary to the successful Ocean Literacy principles established by the Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE) in 2002. The Polar Literacy

Principles comprise seven concepts:

1. The Arctic and Antarctic Regions are unique because of their location on Earth

2. Ice is the dominant feature of the Polar Regions

3. Polar regions play a central role in regulating Earth’s weather and climate

4. The Polar Regions have productive food webs

5. The Poles are experiencing the effects of climate change at an accelerating rate

6. Humans are a part of the polar system. The Arctic has a rich cultural history and diversity of  Indigenous Peoples

7. New technologies, sensors and tools – as well as new applications of existing tools – are expanding scientists’ abilities to study the Polar Regions

Using the PLP as a foundation, we will design OST programs grounded in real-world phenomena related to the Polar Regions. The project will develop and implement professional development (PD) for informal educators to enhance their polar knowledge and data literacy skills. We will work with polar researchers to improve their communication skills and build capacity for broader public engagement with their research.

The project will explore STEM literacy by implementing effective polar education programs and using the PLP developed by Polar ICE in informal learning environments. Project research questions, objectives, and impact are described below in Figure 1.