Project: Research project

Project Details


The APPL-RED professional development program addresses the AFRI Challenge Area of "Food Security" by involving middle and high school teachers serving underrepresented populations in research associated with the vital ecosystems services provided by pollinators. Nearly 90% of flowering plant species and 75% of our global agricultural crops use pollinators to set seed and produce fruit (Klein, et al. 2016; Ollerton, et al. 2011). Importantly, these fruit, vegetable, and nut crops provide the micronutrients we need in our diets to support active and healthy lifestyles (Chaplin-Kramer, et al. 2014; Ellis, et al. 2011). However, populations of pollinators, including both managed and wild bees are in decline, which has promoted scientists, policymakers and the public to evaluate factors causing these declines and deveo-p new approaches to conserve and promote pollinators (Evans, 2015; Grozinger, 2015). The plight of the polllinators serves as an outstanding framework that teachers can use to help their students understand how their food is produced, how agricultural systems can be designed to be sustainable, the importance of ecosystems services, how biodiversity contributes to these processes, and how the concerns of citizens can help shape agricultural policy. Furthermore, because the issues associated with pollinator declines and their contributions to agriculture are so broad, the associated research efforts are equally broad, integrating mulutiple fields and levels of biology. Thus, this topic can serve as a platform for teaching students about the wealth of scientific approaches and perspectives used in agricultural sciences.Current K-12 STEM education standards (NGSS) expect teachers to use the practices of scientists and engineers to teach core disciplinary ideas and cross-cutting concepts (Duschl, et al 2007; NRC, 2012; Lead States, 2013). A challenge to this reform is the lack of exposure to authentic research environment of most K-12 science teachers. The practices are often oversimplified as a "Scientific Method" and are operationalized in classrooms as a stepwise, linear process done by individual investigators (Windschitl et al. 2008). One method for providing teachers with first-hand insight into how research is performed is via summer teacher research experiences in which a teacher spends 5-6 weeks working in the lab of a researcher on a small component of the lab's overall research. Studies on immersion programs have shown the persistence of the concept of one true scientific method (Bell, et al 2003), rather an understanding of the dynamic, systems nature of authenticresearch, and few teachers showing changes in their teaching practice (Sadler, et al 2010).Furthermore, not many teachers are able to devote a large segment of their sumers to PD. Finally, such programs are costly, generally requiring $5,000 stipends per teacher per experience at a minimum and require a long term commitment by graduate students, post docs and/or faculty to mentor the teachers during the research experience. While abbreviated experiences require less time and cost, they still focus on a norrowly defined problem related to a small segment of the lab's overall research plan. The APPL-RED program takes a different approach, one that uses a workshop format to address content and issues associated with the overall research program of a research group and prepares teachers to engage their students in classrooom research projects that parallel the research group's research. Also, a consistent thread throughout the APPL-RED program is systems thinking appliedtonatural and man-made systems, and to the research process itself.The APPL-RED educational program brings together the strengths of Penn State's Center for Pollinator Research (CPR) and Center for Science and the Schools (CSATS). By incorporating a multitude of hands-on activities, active engagement in research projects, and site visits to apiaries, entomological museums and research farms, teachers will develop a systems-level understanding of the role of pollinators in sustainable agricultural systems, learn how researchers investigate these issues, participate in elements of the overall research process, and learn how to translate their learning to their students via classroom research projects associated with the research of PIs at the CPR. Middle schooland high school teachersserving rural and urban school districts will be prepared for student engagement in research through summer and academic year workshops at Penn State, followed by visits to selected schools by the PIs and their graduate students to support implementation of research projects and evaluate the outcomes of the programs. Teachers will also have the opportunity to serve as leaders by training other teachers in their school districts. Additionally, we will foster local interactions between teachers and extension specialists and volunteers from the Pennsylvania Master Gardener's Program, to help support educators and students in their efforts. Ultimately, we aim to develop on-line resources and courses to help distribute this program nationally.

Effective start/end date12/1/1611/30/20


  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture: $144,141.00


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