Blog for February 2022: Taking Action! Student Generation of Solutions to Local Environmental Problems

Posted by: Nancy Butler Songer on January 20, 2022

Humankind faces unprecedented environmental, social, and economic challenges. Whether designing solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change on fragile ecosystems or developing vaccines to combat new COVID-19 variants, such challenges are increasingly complex, interdisciplinary, and require the design of solutions firmly rooted in the disciplines of science and engineering.  


A central underlying dimension of the Framework for K-12 Science Education (NRC, 2012) is that it is important to learn STEM content through both the practices of science and the practices of engineering. Ideally, instructional materials should foster 3D science learning through the science and engineering practices both iteratively and in combination. In addition, many STEM instructional programs may be underdeveloped in their recognition of students’ personal and culturally influenced interactions with field-based data and data collection and could benefit from a more humanistic and personally relevant approach to data collection, data analysis, e.g.,(Lee, Wilkerson, & Lanouette, 2021) and solution-generation. Research results also indicate that instructional materials that specifically foster the learning of STEM content through both science practice-rich activities (e.g., field-based data collection and analysis) and engineering practice-rich activities (e.g., the design of solutions for students’ communities and localities) foster students’ 3D science learning (e.g.,Songer & Ibarrola Recalde, 2021). 


This month’s theme explores STEM learning anchored by local, field-based data collection harnessed towards actionable impacts, such as the creation of solutions to local environmental challenges. The theme’s playlist, webinar, and follow-up discussion include dialogue about how local environmental phenomena are selected and what tools can be used for students’ field-based data collection, analyses, and solution generation. Materials will also explore how teachers can support students’ learning opportunities that recognize the cultural and sociotechnical values influencing data collection and that attend to local problems that directly affect students’ lives. 


Panel topics of discussion will include answers to questions such as, 

1.   How are local phenomena selected as the cornerstone for science and engineering instructional units? 

2.   What are the short- and long-term effects of this learning on student affect, motivation, and interest in pursuing a STEM career, especially one that attends to solving problems concerning life sciences? 

3.   How can teachers guide students’ field-based data collection, data analysis, and solution generation so that they recognize the cultural and sociotechnical values embedded in and influencing these activities?  

4.   How might science teachers be supported as they engage their students in learning opportunities that attend to both local and global problems, which may directly affect students’ lives? 



English, L. D. (2016). STEM education K-12: Perspectives on integration. International Journal of STEM education3(1), 1-8.


Lee, V.R., Wilkerson, M.H., & Kanouette, K. (2021) A call for a humanistic stance towards K-12 data science education. Educational Researcher, 50(9), pp. 664-472.


Mehalik, M. M., Doppelt, Y., & Schuun, C. D. (2008). Middle‐school science through design‐based learning versus scripted inquiry: Better overall science concept learning and equity gap reduction. Journal of engineering education97(1), 71-85.


National Research Council (2019) Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington D.C.: National Academies Press.


Purzer, S., & Quintana-Cifuentes, J. P. (2019). Integrating engineering in K-12 science education: spelling out the pedagogical, epistemological, and methodological arguments. Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Science Education Research1(1), 1-12.


Riskowski, J. L., Todd, C. D., Wee, B., Dark, M., & Harbor, J. (2009). Exploring the effectiveness of an interdisciplinary water resources engineering module in an eighth grade science course. International journal of engineering education25(1), 181.


Songer, N.B. & Ibarrola Recalde, G. (2021) Eco-Solutioning: The design and evaluation of a curricular unit to foster students’ creation of solutions to address local socio-scientific issues. Frontiers Educ. 6:642320. doi: 10.3389/feduc.2021.642320


Tran, N. A., & Nathan, M. J. (2010). Pre‐college engineering studies: An investigation of the relationship between pre‐college engineering studies and student achievement in science and mathematics. Journal of Engineering Education99(2), 143-157.



View playlist related to this theme »