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Globally, science education and literacy suffers. In Latin American, South American, and African countries, many children do not even receive a complete elementary school education, much less adequate science education. Closer to home, US student performance in STEM subjects is among the lowest recorded. Informal science learning experiences can be just as, if not more, powerful than traditional classroom learning, and we plan to leverage the power of the informal science education process to revitalize science education one community at a time.
Off Road Science mobile lab helps schoolchildren develop their curiosity, provide them with tools to explore the hypotheses their curiosity leads them to propose, and help them understand the science and engineering principles that make our complex world work in its unique way. Our mobile lab model also helps teachers enrich their curriculum through comprehensive lesson plans and professional development workshops we provide. Our activities take an inquiry-based, engineering approach to exploring the natural environment. For example, an exercise that starts with students exploring the world of organisms that cause water-borne illnesses under the microscope is followed with water quality testing in a near-by stream and wraps up with a water filter design challenge. Our engineering design challenge approach successfully conveys basic principles of science and engineering, while inspiring students to use their surrounding environment and their own scientific inquiry. This approach motivates a shift away from isolated demonstrations in an artificial setting towards one in which we, as practicing scientists and engineers, use our fieldwork and research to transform the educational experience for K-8 students.
Partnering with key organizations, we focus on one community at a time in the US while fine-tuning the mobile lab design package. We will reach urban school systems, as well as rural communities. Once Off Road Science mobile labs are operating in more than one US city, we will turn our attention abroad, adapting our model to operate in a new environment. The ultimate goal of this venture is to produce a mobile lab model run by scientists and engineers operating in communities across the globe. Off Road Science will reach communities that might otherwise never explore their surrounding environment through the powerful lenses of scientific inquiry.