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Science learning at SLPS grows with collaboration designed to provide teachers and students with inquiry-based instruction

Outcomes of a two-year STEM learning pilot the Institute for School Partnership at Washington University in St. Louis (ISP) completed in partnership with St. Louis Public Schools and The Little Bit Foundation are encouraging. 

The pilot, made possible with generous support of the Bayer Fund, reached 194 SLPS educators and 2,000+ students. This unique collaboration leveraged the expertise of district administrators, as well as third, fourth and fifth grade teachers from 18 schools who co-developed activities to meet the complex and ever-evolving needs of their specific learning communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This partnership deepened connections to amplify the district’s commitment to engaging and equitable STEM learning. Overall, we saw the biggest impacts for students in schools with the greatest needs, which underscores the importance of equitable access to hands-on, joyful STEM learning that ISP champions.”

Maia Elkana, ISP evaluation director

Launched to explore how to best support STEM learning in SLPS schools, the pilot’s primary goals included: providing students more equitable hands-on STEM experiences; providing teachers and students with a strong foundation in inquiry-based instruction; and inspiring students to see themselves as innovators and problem-solvers.

Participating teachers indicated that they felt better prepared to provide high-quality instruction and empowered to step out of their comfort zones and students achieved higher scores than their peers on science exams. 

In addition, the benefits of the pilot increased over time as participating teachers had the opportunity to learn and grow. Teachers reported changing their instructional practices and providing more opportunities for hands-on, inquiry-based learning for students. Other encouraging outcomes included:

  • Students of teachers who participated in the pilot had an average growth two times higher than their classmates in the same schools and outpaced the district average.
  • Students in the pilot achieved higher scores than their peers on science exams, with the largest increases seen for those students in the most impoverished schools. 
  • Students in classrooms supported by the pilot made up 90% of third, fourth, and fifth grade entries in the second annual SLPS Virtual Science Fair. 
  • Students continued to engage in science through remote learning, despite the ongoing impacts of the pandemic. 

For more information download this PDF summary or contact Maia Elkana