1992-97, Project SEARCH: University Science Students as Curriculum Planners, Teachers, and Role Models in Elementary School Classrooms

Project SEARCH (Science Education and Research for CHildren) is an outreach program designed to teach science and to foster positive attitudes toward science.

Through the project, university science students bring activity-based learning, plus materials and content expertise, to
local classrooms and after-school programs. Using observations, surveys, and interviews, we examined the experiences of these students as curriculum planners, teachers, and role models for the children.

We found that teachers value the enthusiasm and the resources provided by the SEARCH students. Children were engaged in the activities and looked forward to the students’ visits. They also see them as positive and diverse models for the role of scientist. But there were often problems in the areas of preparation, scheduling, and communication, and the classroom activities often replicated traditional didactic lessons.

The SEARCH experience highlights both the value of providing diverse and challenging experiences for children, and the need for dialogue and reflection on those experiences. Despite several concerns, the SEARCH model is one that deserves expansion and further study as it is extended into new settings.

Published (1997) in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 34(1), 69–88.