The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a grant with total funding expected to reach $1.3 million this month to the Natural History Museum of Utahand the College of Education at the University of Utah to develop and evaluate an on-line learning environment to support student learning in the biosciences. This pioneering project, titled Engaging Practices for Inquiry with Collections in Bioscience (EPIC Bioscience), uses authentic research investigations of objects from the museum’s digitized natural history collections to provide students, particularly traditionally underserved populations, with novel access to museum objects and engaging STEM investigations to improve critical thinking skills.
Over the next three years, principal investigators Kirsten Butcher, Mitch Power, and Madlyn Runburg will lead an interdisciplinary team of educational researchers, museum educators, and scientists who will combine their expertiseto develop curriculum aligned with Next Generation Science Standards, a multi-state effort to create new K-12 science education standards that are “rich in content and practice.” The EPIC project will focus on middle school students 6-8thgrades. The new online learning environment will emphasize a major disciplinary core idea in life sciences — Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics. Over the project’s three-year period, more than 1,500 Title I and rural students in Utah will have the opportunity to engage in the development of the EPIC Bioscience investigations. The investigations will eventually be made available to the public.