The threat of climate change has exposed more homes to flooding and wildfires, and it has intensified heat waves that prompt farmers to lose crop yields and a way to sustain a living. Climate change, among many issues, worries Barbara Schneider as she thinks about whether younger generations will be prepared to face scientific challenges altering the world.

“I have been very concerned about the lack of engagement that young people have in science, especially because of the issue of climate change, the problems of scientific literacy, the ability to understand misinformation, and how young people are going to function,” says Schneider, a Michigan State University professor whose research examines how social contexts influence adolescent development.

In response, Schneider and researchers from Michigan State and the University of Helsinki in Finland developed a curriculum called Crafting Engagement for Science Environments and published a related book. The goal is to improve science literacy among high school students by making lessons meaningful and relevant to their lives through a teaching method called project-based learning. The curriculum also primes students for college and potential careers in science.

Now the STEM curriculum is poised to enter high school classrooms in the rural South. Michigan State is partnering with two historically Black colleges and universities, Alabama A&M University and Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina, to adapt the curriculum to serve students in the South. The project is funded through a nearly $8 million innovation grant from the U.S. Department of Education and will last five years.

The collaboration, researchers from Michigan State and Alabama A&M say, is rooted in an equitable sharing of knowledge and best practices between the institutions. The participation of HBCUs is notable in part because they play a key role in training future K-12 science teachers.

“Historically Black colleges and universities have an outstanding reputation in terms of building science courses in their undergraduate and graduate programs,” Schneider says.

She notes that the partnership aims to avoid “parachuting,” the phenomenon when large research institutions extract information from communities that have fewer resources or fail to tap into local expertise.

By partnering with HBCUs, the hope is that the curriculum will be more culturally responsive to the needs of students in the rural South.

Read the full article about STEM education by Eleanore Catolico at EdSurge.