Project Overview


Global socio-scientific issues such as pandemics,
climate change, and diminishing biodiversity are reshaping basic aspects of students’ present and future lives.

We refer to these complex and multifaceted issues as Grand Challenges (GCs).
Despite students’ growing concern with GCs, school science typically focuses on conveying scientific principles with little connection to these relevant real-world social issues that are informed by science. In a recent international survey, nearly all students expressed a desire to learn about GCs in school,
yet only few reported having opportunities to do so.

In this project we begin the first stage in restructuring middle school science education around GCs and students’ desire to be well-informed and to develop agency with respect to these issues.

In this stage we are: (A) Developing Developing three 20-hour-long GC units with associated assessments for middle school science; (B) Collaborating with middle school science teachers to enact, study, and revise the GC units; and (C) Conducting research on student outcomes associated with the GC units and factors that impact the feasibility and quality of GC-oriented learning experiences in middle school science.

Research Questions

The Problem

Science education has for too long failed to connect with students’ lives, interests, and concerns. Multiple decades of research have shown that students’ motivation to...

Instructional Approach

The instructional approach is strongly based on existing research of GC-oriented teaching and learning. This instructional approach reflects commitments that guide the...

Project Description

We have developed three 20-hour-long GC units with high inter-unit coherence that spread across the 7th grade curriculum. This...

Design Principles

  • Learning experience contextualized in the issue
  • Culturally responsive
  • Practice oriented
  • Prioritize student voice
  • Inter-unit coherence