Day of Discovery: A Stem Pipeline Program For Middle School Students

Project Website

Project Description

This proposal aims to adapt an interdisciplinary science-based curriculum for students in upper middle school grades based on models developed in previous SEPA projects. Students who participate from this program will be better prepared to pursue advanced science studies in high school and will become more familiar with STEM research- and health-related careers.


In response to national reform efforts and calls by state and local business leaders, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) has committed to setting higher expectations and standards for K-12 STEM education. As part of this effort, the Center for Science Outreach (CSO) has developed and implemented two rigorous, interdisciplinary, research-focused programs for high school students interested in STEM: the School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt (SSMV) and the Interdisciplinary Science and Research programs (ISR). The focus of the current proposal is vertical expansion of these programs to better prepare upper middle school students for entrance to SSMV and ISR through the Day of Discovery (DoD). DoD will host approximately 200 students from six middle schools with varying levels of achievement each year for academic year and summer experiences with an estimated 48 7th and 8th grade science teachers from intervention and comparison middle schools receiving professional development training throughout the grant period. Specifically, the proposal aims to 1) design and implement an innovative program for 7th and 8th grade students that will prepare them for and excite them about research-based STEM studies; 2) establish summer camps for DoD middle school students to enhance their STEM learning experiences; 3) engage middle school teachers in authentic research experiences to assist them in understanding how to integrate project-based learning in their classrooms. DoD is a pull-out, enrichment program for STEM-interested students. Students will spend about four hours each week with the DoD instructional team comprised of a postdoctoral scientist and an MNPS teacher. With the help of CSO staff, this instructional team will develop grade level appropriate curricular units supporting the current science standards through the use of PBL and inquiry. To extend the STEM learning time and create a linkage to the school year, summer camps will also be established. Under the direction of scientists, students will spend five days each summer exploring community health issues and developing presentations to communicate these findings to local officials. Teachers will also have an opportunity to participate in authentc research experiences during summer professional development. In PD session I, DoD instructional teams will build the scientist-teacher co-teaching partnership, develop curricula forDoD, and create pre- and post- content assessments to support evaluation of student learning. During session II, teachers from both intervention and comparison schools will receive a refresher on the essential elements of PBL and develop a unit of study for implementation in their science classroom. Anticipated outcome of this proposal include 1) DoD students will exit the program better prepared to participate in the SSMV, ISR, or other advanced STEM electives in high school; 2)DoD summer camp will provide a much-needed learning ‘bridge’ between school years and ease the transition from 8th grade to SSMV or ISR; 3) Teachers will experience increased confidence in implementing PBL to teach middle school science.