Formal-Informal Collaborations to Increase Science Literacy and Student Learning

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A Collaboration between the American Museum of Natural History and Michigan State University

Project Summary

The American Museum of Natural History and Michigan State University are collaborating on a research and development project focused on the hypothesis that learners must have access to the real work of scientists if they are to learn both about the nature of science and to do inquiry themselves.

Urban Advantage (UA) is a middle school science initiative led by the museum involving eight informal science education institutions and the New York City Department of Education.  The UA program provides professional development for teachers and hands-on learning opportunities for students to learn how to conduct scientific investigations (see resources page for a general program overview). Teaching cases will serve as resources to help teachers, students, administrators, and families understand scientific inquiry through research on freshwater ecosystems, and—with that increased understanding—support student learning.

The project’s goals are two-pronged:

  • The Urban Advantage staff of AMNH are refining their professional development approach focused on scientific inquiry using secondary data sets, by extending the resources available to support teachers’ and students’ learning.
  • The UA staff, along with collaborating researchers at Michigan State University, are integrating a research agenda into the program so as to learn what aspects of UA support quality science teaching.

Urban Advantage

This website explains the NYC urban middle school science education program in more detail.

As such, there are two streams of work:

  • Developing and testing “teaching cases” featured on the Hudson River zebra mussel invasion to serve as resources to help teachers and students understand scientific inquiry and secondary research

Hudson River Zebra Mussel Invasion River Ecology

This website provides detailed information and activites to do concerning the zebra mussel invasion in the Hudson River.

Cary Institute of Ecosystems Studies

This website by the Cary Institute, a partner in our study, provides ongoing professional research related to the Hudson River and its ecosystem, including the study on the zebra mussel invasion.

  • Describing and explaining what teachers and students learn about science and inquiry through participation in UA through interviews, observations, and surveys with teachers, students, and administrators, as well as student assessments



This project is a partnership between Michigan State University and the American Museum of Natural History.

Funding provided by the National Science Foundation.

Grant # 0918560

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.