The National Science Foundation has given the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development and the Stanford University Graduate School of Education a $3 million grant to develop a curriculum for fifth grade science students who are learning English, NYU announced in a press release last week.
The curriculum will adhere to the Next Generation Science Standards, a program developed for K-12 students who are non-native English speakers to establish a solid science foundation before entering post-secondary education. The program combines language learning with science by having an emphasis on skills such as listening, reading, speaking and writing. The standards were created by 26 states in conjunction with a writing team and partners across the country, and were released in 2013.
Three years of the four-year project, which started Sept. 1, will be dedicated to refining course materials, while the last year is set aside for a pilot study to field test the curriculum. The study will examine the impact of this new curriculum on science learning, language development and how teachers adapt to the new instructional practices.
Guadalupe Valdés, a professor of education at Stanford University and a principal investigator on the NSF grant, said Stanford will be working closely with NYU to ensure the Next Generation Science Standards are being fully implemented into course materials.
“We will be collaborating in the development of materials and working as a team,” Valdés said. “We will field test and pilot materials in school districts in both California and the New York City areas.”
Among the researchers on the NYU side are Okhee Lee, a professor of childhood education at NYU Steinhardt, and Lorena Llosa, an associate professor of education at NYU Steinhardt, both of whom are principal investigators on the project.
Steinhardt sophomore Kassidy Williams said she thinks the new curriculum will be ideal for English language learners interested in science because the STEM fields are not particularly diverse, and English language learners sometimes aren’t given as many opportunities as those who fluently speak English.
“I definitely think it was a good idea to give the grant to Steinhardt — all of my teaching classes so far have stressed the importance of gaining teaching skills, not just focusing on content knowledge,” Williams said. “The program will only be effective if the lessons are taught in a way that the children understand and connect with, especially considering many of them are English language learners, and Steinhardt is the part of NYU that really focuses on producing effective teachers.”
Steinhardt sophomore Ann Guo, a native of Shanghai, said she feels this project is going to transform the way knowledge is taught by focusing less on having the students memorize facts and instead emphasizing learning the material in depth.
“Since English is my second language, I can really understand that learning science in another language can be really tough especially for younger students,” Guo said. “If this curriculum really works, I believe it’s going to help the students build more confidence in their academics generally and will help retain or even boost their interest in STEM, one of the most needed areas of study in today’s global job market.”
Additional reporting by Christine Wang.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Sept. 14 print edition. Email Lexi Faunce at [email protected]