Science Sprouts 2.0: Extending and replicating a longitudinal investigation of the roots of scientific literacy and interests
Effective Years: 2023-2027
Sociodemographic disparities in science-related opportunities and achievement emerge in early childhood, and likely contribute to long-term engagement and representation in STEM fields. With these realities as a backdrop, this project aims to better understand the origins and development of scientific literacy and interests. Children's experiences at home, their early attunement to cause and effect, and the development of related cognitive skills are being evaluated longitudinally from 3 to 13 years of age. A special emphasis is placed on low-income and under-represented minority families in order to inform the development of early interventions that can allay opportunity gaps and facilitate participation and success of all children in science. The overall strategy is to shed light on relationships between children's measured causal stance, their scientific literacy, and their interest in science.
The project builds on previous longitudinal work establishing that variability in preschoolers' causal stance, causal reasoning skill, and exposure to science-related input are each predictive of subsequent scientific literacy. One core goal is to test the strength and generalizability of these previous findings by replicating the two earliest waves of data collection (at 3 and 4 years of age) from a previous study. By focusing specifically on low-income families, the majority of whom will be Black or Latine, this replication will extend understanding to understudied populations that have historically faced limited access to science-related enrichment and educational opportunities. It also will support evaluation of the test-retest reliability of early measures of causal reasoning and science-related interests. A second goal is to specify how far early indicators can predict science outcomes by extending the original investigation longitudinally through middle school, to age 13. This extension also will trace relations between attitudes and achievement in science through middle school: a period of particularly dramatic developmental change in this domain. Together, these investigations enhance knowledge of the roots of scientific literacy and interests and inform theoretical and practical discussions regarding when and in what ways to expose young children to science.
This project is supported by NSF's EDU Core Research (ECR) program. The ECR program emphasizes fundamental STEM education research that generates foundational knowledge in the field. Investments are made in critical areas that are essential, broad and enduring: STEM learning and STEM learning environments, broadening participation in STEM, and STEM workforce development.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.