TUCSON, Ariz. — A new hands-on science curriculum, co-developed by the University of Arizona and launching in three Southern Arizona high schools this fall, engages students in citizen science projects to measure air quality at various sites in and around Tucson.
The multi-week Rising Vision curriculum was developed by the Cooper Center for Environmental Learning, a partnership between the UA College of Education and Tucson Unified School District. Located on Tucson's west side, the Cooper Center serves as a "living classroom," which thousands of Arizona students visit each year to participate in hands-on, nature-based educational activities.
The Rising Vision curriculum has high school students measure air quality at the Cooper Center, at their schools and at other sites in their communities, using sensors that visually detect airborne particulate. In addition to teaching the fundamentals of science inquiry — from forming a hypothesis through gathering and analyzing data — the program challenges students to explore air quality as a social justice issue and to share their work and findings in public events in their communities.
The curriculum is being piloted at Rincon High School and University High School in TUSD and Sierra Vista's Center for Academic Success, a charter school noted for its nontraditional programs to support parents and students and its track record of high student achievement.
In addition to engaging students in citizen science, Rising Vision helps teachers address state education standards in social studies and educational technologies, including exploring how environmental changes differently affect populations, engaging in a global community to contribute to a specific issue, communicating information respectfully to multiple audiences, collaborating with others using digital tools to publish findings, and using technology to calculate, graph and present data in real-world settings.
The Cooper Center, in partnership with UA South, recently hosted a teacher training workshop at the UA South campus in Sierra Vista to train high school teachers in the fundamentals of citizen science and the Rising Vision curriculum. The workshop was funded through a grant from the APS Foundation to mitigate the negative impacts of poverty at Title 1 schools on the Arizona-Mexico border and was taught through UA South's Masters in Education program. Participants could apply the training to continuing education requirements for Arizona teachers.
The APS Foundation grant funds UA South's Sin Fronteras: SOAZ Professional Learning Community Project, which provides regional STEM educators with free professional development to better support underserved border school districts. The project will offer multiple free trainings through November on a range of topics, including "Citizen Science through Birding," "Grant Writing for Teachers" and the "San Pedro Ecology Experience."