Diversifying curriculum in elementary science classes

National Science Foundation supports project aimed at helping teachers provide culturally relevant experiences to all students.

 Project title 
Diversifying curriculum in elementary science classes

 Official grant name 

Accessible Computational Thinking in Elementary Science Classes within and across Diverse Cultural and Linguistic Contexts (ACT)

 Award amount 
$931,058

 Grant effective dates 
August 15, 2021August 14, 2024

 Principal investigator(s) 
Brian Nelson

 Direct sponsor 
National Science Foundation



The challenge

Computing and computer-based approaches to problem-solving are at the center of almost every field and occupation in the U.S.— and the demand for these skills will continue to grow in the future. Computational thinking, a systematic approach to tackling challenging problems through computing, is a foundational form of literacy that is increasingly being taught to students in K–12 classrooms. Students who are -white, affluent and male tend to develop a greater interest in science and STEM-related careers. Yet, science, computing and computational thinking are foundational to societal decision-making and problem-solving. The lack of cultural diversity in these fields can lead to societal systems and decision-making structures that neglect to include a range of perspectives. Teachers are critical in preparing students to cultivate these skills and take them into the world.  The project, Accessible Computational Thinking in Elementary Science Classes within and across Diverse Cultural and Linguistic Contexts (ACT), is investigating best practices for helping teachers provide culturally relevant experiences for all elementary students to participate in and engage with computational thinking integrated into their science lessons.



The approach

ACT will collaborate with teachers in diverse schools and districts in Arizona, Maryland and Washington, D.C., over three years, reaching approximately 60 elementary teachers and 1,200 students. The project will support the teachers in summer professional development and learning opportunities during the school year to learn about and incorporate culturally relevant computational thinking into their science instruction. 

ACT aims to empower practicing elementary teachers’ approaches to meaningfully and effectively integrate and adapt computational thinking into their regular science teaching practice so that all students can access the curriculum. The project will also explore the impact of these approaches on student learning and self-efficacy.