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Additional evidence of effectiveness and success.


Bridging Preschool and Kindergarten through Science and Mathematics–PEACHES Project II (1994-1998) funded by the National Science Foundation:

The PEACHES Project conducted a second NSF Teacher Enhancement Project in 1994–1999 to support the transition of preschoolers to Kindergarten through the use of PEACHES and GEMS materials and methodology. Over a 3 year period, 119 teachers and teachers/educators representing 28 teams of educators from across the country participated in intensive summer institutes and school year sessions to build cohesive PreK-K programs using content and skill-rich materials and instructional strategies integrating science, mathematics, and language arts. The GEMS units that formed the core instructional materials for the project included: Animal Defenses, Ant Homes Under the Ground, Egg Eggs Everywhere, Ladybugs, Penguins and Their Young, Tree Homes, Buzzing A Hive, Frog Math, Treasure Boxes, Bubble Festival, and Terrarium Habitats. The final evaluation of the project, conducted by Dr. Bo De Long, was designed to assess the impact of the project along six dimensions. Results from both qualitative and quantitative data sources confirm that the project had a positive, enduring impact in all six of the following areas:

  • The overall success and impact of the program on students, teachers, parents, and administrators. Specifically, increases in teachers’ confidence in teaching science, teachers’ science content knowledge, teachers’ use of inquiry-based teaching strategies, students’ science content knowledge, and parental involvement were noted as evidence of the project’s success.
  • The ongoing support of the staff and the effectiveness of various supporting aspects of the program. Ongoing support was considered extremely important by the participants, and most reported that the support offered by PEACHES staff was essential to the success of the project.
  • The impact of the program on teacher practices and student outcomes in science and math. Many participants stated that PEACHES Bridging program and GEMS curriculum had the single, greatest influence on their teaching practice, and that their entire approach to teaching had changed as a result of their experiences. The data showed that throughout the four years of the project, teachers gained practice and confidence in using inquiry-based teaching strategies in the classroom, helping to set a standard for inquiry-based practice early on in the school years for both teachers and students. This kind of early experience and training can help students develop inquiry-based skills that will impact their science learning throughout their school years. Ninety-five percent of the teachers reported that their students experienced "Large" to "Very Large" increases in science content knowledge since they began using the GEMS units in their classrooms. In addition, teachers remarked on gains in students’ ability to estimate, make inferences, and apply prior science/math knowledge to new learning situations in meaningful ways. Several teachers noted that students’ facility with scientific language increased and that there were marked increases in the science facts and information their students knew. Because of the increase in use of inquiry-based teaching strategies, increases in student opportunities-to-learn can probably be assumed.
  • The degree to which the course materials and information are incorporated into on-going Kindergarten and early primary education programs. The 119 original participants gave presentations, held workshops, or shared activities with about 7,600 teachers, 5,400 parents, 545 administrators, and 7,800 children. Many administrators said GEMS/PEACHES had become the core curriculum in their pre-K and Kindergarten science and math programs. At least four school districts have adopted the curriculum as their district pre-K and Kindergarten science curricula.
  • The effectiveness of the teams’ ongoing activities with teachers, administrators, parents, and children in bridging the transition for preschool to Kindergarten. In general, teams from all three cohorts more than met the bridging goals outlined in their original team plans. Even after two to four years, teams established at the Institutes continued to meet within and between grade levels to implement their plans.
  • The effectiveness of the program as a means of promoting collaboration between parents, teachers, and administrators. Administrators and teachers reported increases in parent volunteerism in the classrooms, and received very positive feedback from parents about PEACHES Bridging as a program and about the amount of science content the curriculum is teaching their children.


The Primary Institute in Science and Mathematics (PRISM) Project, II, 1994–1997), NSF. The PRISM project, which used many GEMS units as curricular exemplars, was evaluated by the Woodside Research Consortium, co-directed by Dr. Steven Schneider and Susan Arbuckle, to assess the effects of the PRISM institute on participants’ subsequent activities in the classroom and leadership efforts. Participants were contacted after they had been out of the institute for one, two, or three years. Interviews provided information about changes in the attitudes, teaching and leadership involvement of the participants over short and long term intervals. Use of the term "participants" below refers to both classroom teachers and teacher-educators who participated in the project.

Methodology: Successful phone interviews were conducted with 36 participants from the 1995 institute, 6 participants from 1994, and 7 participants from 1993. Three attempts were made to contact each individual. Teacher participants were asked to describe ways in which their exposure to PRISM has impacted their teaching and their students, the frequency of science and math instruction in their classroom, and the extent of their professional leadership activities. Teacher educator participants were asked to describe ways in which PRISM influenced the role they play with teachers. Teacher/Teacher Educator teams were asked about the functionality of the team post-PRISM. Interview data were collected, aggregated, then analyzed for trends, patterns, and the extent of professional activities related to the individual’s participation in PRISM.

  • Changes in Classroom Teaching: All teachers report their classroom practice has changed as a result of PRISM. Those who had taught little science, or who taught textbook-based math, felt the institute revolutionized their practice by showing them how to effectively implement readily available, investigative, hands-on science and math lessons and materials. All teachers utilize GEMS publications and express appreciation of the organization, thoroughness, and inviting nature of the materials.
  • Impact on Students: All teachers have stories to relate of heightened enthusiasm among their primary grade students. A bilingual classroom teacher believes the changes in this teaching toward a more constructivist style "empowers" young children. One teacher comments that her students are learning more and different kinds of science than had she not participated in PRISM. Teachers state that their teaching is now "more real" for students, more student centered, and more developmentally-oriented.
  • Change in Amount of Science and Mathematics Instruction Time: Almost all teachers devote more instructional time to science than they did before their PRISM experience. Those whose science teaching time remains unchanged were already firmly committed to daily science instruction—they report that although the number of minutes is the same, the pedagogy is more effective and the content richer.
  • Change in Specific Dimensions of Content and Pedagogy: All teachers report utilizing inquiry-based teaching now more than before PRISM. Fifty percent of teachers interviewed estimate they use it 50% to 75% more often, and 50% up to 25% more often. Data reflects an increase in 1) engagement of students in activity-based science and math, 2) integrated science and math in the classroom, 3) cooperative learning techniques, and 4) constructivist teaching. The1997 Evaluation Report from Woodside Research Consortium summarizes results from teachers and teacher-educators, with many quotes from participants.

    As regards impact on student learning, the Year 3 Progress Report stated, "All PRISM participants report that their students are doing more mathematics and science. Moreover, the type of activities they do are inquiry-based, involving active learning modeled at PRISM. The students are more willing to take risks, approach problems and activities in a variety of ways, and have increased enjoyment of learning math and science. A bilingual classroom teacher reports changes in his teaching toward a more constructivist style. One teacher comments that her students are learning a far wider range of science topics than they would have without her attending PRISM. Teachers state that their teaching is more real for students—more connected to concrete events in students’ lives."

Note: UC Berkeley graduate student Frank Worrell prepared the final evaluation report for the first half of the PRISM project. In regard to use of activity-based science and related variables, the Worrell report shows results of teacher surveys on pre- and post-questionnaires, indicating, on a 1-5 Likert scale (with 5 most favorable) significant increases from pre-questionnaire to one year later (page 8, Worrell report). Variables included: use of activity based science (increased from 4.2 to 4.9); stress on problem solving (from 4.1 to 4.3); teaches conceptual understanding (from 3.5 to 4.0); and teaches application of concepts (from 3.7 to 4.2).

Jacqueline Barber, Impact on Teacher Educators of 1-week participation in K-3 Math/Science Summer Institute. (web published on TEECH listserv)


GEMS by Satellite, An Interactive Model for Activity-Based Science In-service via Satellite Project, funded by the U.S. Department of Education in partnership with the GEMS Program and Educational Service District 101 in Spokane, Washington.
The evaluation was conducted by Joan Shaugnessy of the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory of Portland, Oregon. This project was conducted in 1990-1992 to provide training opportunities in the use of the GEMS materials for staff from rural and remote school sites. In its first year, the Project developed and disseminated 21 hours of inservice. Training and materials were made available at school sites to teams of administrators, teachers, and parents at thirty-six separate sites. During the second year of the program, videotapes from these broadcasts were produced to provide short orientation lessons that would train viewers who had been unable to watch the satellite broadcast. The units included in both the satellite training and in the development of videotapes were Oobleck, Involving Dissolving, Fingerprinting, Buzzing A Hive, Bubble-ology, Liquid Explorations, Acid Rain, and Earth, Moon and Stars. At the end of the first year, the evaluator’s conclusion was that satellite delivery for training was a positive experience for the participants. During the broadcasts, participants were engaged in GEMS activities and were enthusiastic about GEMS applicability to instruction in their own classrooms. Analyses of questionnaire data showed that the participants’ ratings of the inservice format, interaction between participants and presenters, activities, and unit usefulness were very positive, averaging above 4 on the five point scale for five of the GEMS units. Satellite training reached the desired population successfully. Forty-six percent of the participating teams were from rural areas, forty-three percent were from remote regions, and sixty-one percent of the participating sites were Chapter I eligible. Upon completion of the satellite training, many teachers implemented lessons into their classrooms quickly. By the end of the 1991-92 school year, teachers reported they had used GEMS, on the average, for 10.85 hours of instruction. The large majority of teachers who used GEMS in their classrooms said the lessons were practical to implement, matched student learning needs and instructional style, and were appropriate for the grade level they teach.

River Cutters/AAAS Project 2061 analysis: In collaboration with Project 2061 of the AAAS, the GEMS unit River Cutters was carefully evaluated, with key issues pinpointed. It was then completely revised, in close coordination with Project 2061, to more effectively align its content and pedagogical support with main learning goals. The revised guide now addresses and in the words of Joellen Roseman of Project 2061 provides "much more instructional support" for several primary benchmarks (and their corresponding fundamental concepts in the NSES). These are: Benchmark 1B (6-8) #2 on controlled experimentation and issues of variables; Benchmark 4C (6–8) #2 and #5, on changes in the Earth’s surface, including "The earth’s surface is shaped in part by the motion of water and wind over very long times…" and on erosion prevention; and Benchmarks 11B (6–8) #1 and #3, on models, their usefulness and limitations. There are other important "precursor benchmarks," for earlier grades, which if not addressed can prevent students from attaining the primary benchmarks, especially in this case the 3–5 benchmark which states, "Waves, wind, water, and ice shape and reshape the earth’s land surface by eroding rock and soil in some areas and depositing them in other areas sometimes in seasonal layers." This precursor benchmark is strongly addressed in the unit. In addition, based on the feedback of Project 2061, and the awareness that the vast scale of geological time is a difficult idea for students to grasp, the revised guide added and tested an entirely new activity, to provide greater instructional support for that aspect of Benchmark 4C which refers to "very long times." With this revision, the unit is judged to have been considerably improved by Project 2061 consultants and many teachers familiar with the unit. An article in progress by Project 2061 Curriculum Director Joellen Roseman and Former GEMS Curriculum Specialist Cary Sneider will confirm this improvement and document the process. The process was helpful and its essential elements are being applied to other units. Cary Sneider summarized the critique and revision process for the national science education community at a presentation entitled "Revising River Cutters: A GEMS Response," presented at a colloquium entitled "Using National Science Education Standards to Evaluate, Select, and Adapt Instructional Materials," conducted by the Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education of the National Research Council, Washington, D.C. November 15, 1996.


Science Core Assignments Program, New Standards Project, National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE): In 1997–1998, the GEMS Project worked with Dr. Elizabeth Stage at NCEE to articulate a sequence of GEMS activities that build conceptual understanding toward selected National Science Education Standards (NSES) and AAAS Project 2061 Benchmarks objectives, as further defined by New Standards Project. Nine GEMS units were selected for grade levels 3 through 9. Each grade level series represents activities and assessments for 2–3 months of classroom instruction. The majority of these units are focused on science concepts, integrating portions of Discovering Density, Convection: A Current Event, and other activities related to the idea from the standards that: "Objects can be described by the properties of the matter from which they are made; those properties can be used to sort objects." The NCEE project is using these activities to build a strong assessment portfolio system, which involves detailed analysis of student work and provides ways for the teacher to assess student progress. In addition to indicating that sequences of selected GEMS activities can be used to support the national standards, this project should also provide data on how well the GEMS activities selected conveyed the key concepts, through its assessment system and analysis of student work.

The School Community Mathematics Project (SCMP) 1990-1994, funded by the California Post secondary Education Commission (CPEC), Eisenhower Mathematics and Science Education State Grant Program: SCMP worked with the seven elementary schools of the Pittsburg Unified School District in Pittsburg, California to enhance mathematics teaching and improve the math curriculum taught in the district. Half of the units selected as the core curriculum were from the GEMS series or from activities that were later published as GEMS units. An important goal of the project was to utilize materials that addressed state and national science and mathematics standards. District K-5 teachers received eight full-day inservices on these units per year, seven on-site model lessons in their classroom, and instructional materials, and participation in education conferences, field trips, reunions, school-wide science/math nights and assembly programs. The evaluation component included attitude surveys, feedback forms, comment cards, classroom visits, student work (including mathematics journals), and teacher observations of student learning. The progress report and summary of evaluation data reflect significant improvement in teacher instructional practices, classroom math curriculum and student understanding of key concepts. Teachers also noted an improvement in attitudes toward science and mathematics. One principal noted an improvement of student math scores from the CTBS (California Test of Basic Skills). The success of the math project led to a similar 4-year science program, sponsored by Dow Chemical. A number of GEMS guides were selected for use in Grades K–5. Assessments were developed for each unit; training and materials were provided for grade level leaders. Evaluation for SCMP was conducted by Dr. Jan M. Goodman.


Study on the Learning Station Approach: In 1990, a Finnish science educator, Maati Erätuuli, and Dr. Cary Sneider conducted a systematic observation of families in a science discovery room. An observation instrument—a set of questions and ratings to be used by a trained observer—helped determine whether or not visitors read the cartoons and station signs, used the lab equipment as intended, and read the more extensive information available at each exhibit. The data was analyzed statistically. The most important contribution to the literature about science discovery rooms is that a majority of visitors did not manipulate the equipment randomly. Their actions at the exhibits showed they understood the instructions; and their expressions showed that they were interested in what they discovered. An article on this aspect was published in Science Education (see closing reference). Ten of the most popular exhibits were selected to become a GEMS exhibit guide, Wizard’s Lab. These ten exhibits, along with the cartoon instructions, were among those included in the research study. GEMS also developed a Shapes, Loops, and Images exhibit guide, with tabletop exhibits on shapes, reflections, and topology. The success of these tabletop exhibits suggested they could be excellent classroom learning stations. When further testing revealed successful teacher experience with learning stations, we developed learning station GEMS teacher’s guides, classroom-based rather than "exhibit guides." These include Bubble Festival, Mystery Festival, Microscopic Explorations, Build It! Festival and Math Around the World. The classroom learning station approach, because it allows students to proceed at their own pace and make their own discoveries, can be a particularly effective mode of presentation for activity-based science and mathematics.

Erätuuli, M. and Sneider, C: "The Experiences of Visitors in a Physics Discovery Room." Science Education 784 (4) (1990): 481-493.


Trial Testing: The development of every GEMS unit includes a thorough pilot testing by GEMS staff and field testing by classroom teachers nationwide. Following a pilot test in one local classroom, the teacher's guide is written and revised as a classroom lesson plan outlining the activities of the unit. This local trial version is sent, along with a kit of materials, to 24 local classroom teachers at multiple grade levels for the local field test. Teachers conduct every activity from the draft guide over 8 weeks and provide detailed written feedback and student work supporting its effectiveness. Teachers' written evaluations are often 12–16 pages long depending on the length of the unit. The responses are compiled, reviewed by the author/developer team, and then used to revise the draft for the GEMS National field test. The national field test is conducted with 24 teachers at 6 school sites across the country, again over a 2-month period. Feedback is again compiled, reviewed, and used to refine the final draft of the guide. The final draft is also sent to experts in the content fields of mathematics, science, and education to develop a high level of educational quality and scientific integrity. The GEMS testing and development process spans 18 months. This complex process provides concrete evidence of 1) student learning and information helpful in assessment of student progress and overall evaluation of educational effectiveness, and 2) correlation to learning goals outlined in national, state, and local science/math standards and guidelines. Published GEMS Teacher's Guides are revised frequently, based on continuing teacher feedback, scientific update, and new findings in science and mathematics educational research.


Barber, Jacqueline, "The Making of GEMS: Partners in Developing Curriculum, in Sussman, Art (editor) Science Education Partnerships: Manual for Scientists and K–12 Teachers, University of California, San Francisco, 1993, pages 125–129.


Standards-Based Recommendations: Several GEMS units are recommended in NSTA’s Pathways to the Science Standards under the "Science as Inquiry" standard and many others are recommended under the other content standards. GEMS units are also recommended in the 1996 edition of the Resources for Teaching Elementary School Science of the NSRC (as well as the companion volume, Resources for Teaching Middle School Science) as they are "judged to be supportive of inquiry-based science teaching that fosters understanding of science concepts through hands-on student investigations." GEMS has also been featured in recent Eisenhower Clearinghouse publications and highlighted in the 1997 and earlier NSF National Science and Technology Week Resources Guides, posters, and related publications.

Lawrence Lowery (editor), NSTA Pathways to the Science Standards, Elementary School Edition, National Science Teacher’s Association, Arlington, Virginia, 1997. GEMS guides are recommended under Science As Inquiry (page 42), Physical Science (pages 56, 57), Life Science (page 69), Earth and Space Science (page 78), and Science in Personal and Social Perspectives, page 100.

Resources for Teaching Elementary School Science, National Science Resources Center (NSRC), National Academy Press, Washington, 1996. Numerous GEMS units are recommended and described.

Resources for Teaching Middle School Science, National Science Resources Center (NSRC), National Academy Press, Washington, 1998. Many GEMS units are recommended and keyed to NSES standards

Cary Sneider, with Jacqueline Barber and Lincoln Bergman, The Architecture of Reform, GEMS and National Standards, GEMS Handbook, Lawrence Hall of Science, 1997.


GEMS Model Schools (or Districts): The Fall/Winter 1998 GEMS Network News newsletter included a survey entitled, "Are You A GEMS Model School?" (page 10, 11). Among the responses received were a master’s thesis by Mary Anne DeGrazia, a GEMS Associate who teaches at Creekside Middle School in Castro Valley, California. Her thesis concerns the development of a middle school science program using GEMS units and a three-year plan for its implementation, which is now under way. Strong emphasis is placed on the inquiry approach, supporting national standards, and actively involving teachers in evolving their own curriculum plans. DeGrazia states that teacher and student attitudes have been positively impacted by the transition to GEMS sequences. Mindy Hostick of Steiner Ranch Elementary, Leander ISD in Austin, Texas, described how her district has selected a large number of GEMS units, from grades K-5 and correlated them to the NSES, TEKS, and the district’s science objectives for each grade level. Cindy Lueckemeyer of Spring Independent School District, also in Texas, detailed a K–8 curriculum featuring 23 GEMS units, aligned to the district’s recommendations, as well as state and national standards. Similar responses were received from Salt Lake City, Utah; North Royalton, Ohio; Princeton, Missouri; York, South Carolina; Somerset, Massachusetts; Iowa City, Iowa; McLeod, Montana; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and many other locations in California, Texas, and other states. All state that they have had great success presenting GEMS units and encouraging other teachers to make the transition to inquiry-based science teaching. While many of these responses came from individual teachers who have had some level of GEMS professional development, most were not directly associated with a GEMS Site or Center, so provide examples of the widespread independent usefulness that many teachers and districts find in GEMS units.

GEMS Sites and Centers: Other Evidence of Success: We have also gathered a great deal of information from the growth of our nationwide network of GEMS sites and centers. Over the past 10 years, GEMS has developed a strong network of over 15,000 educators nationwide who regularly use GEMS materials to meet the goals of their mathematics and science programs. Close to 1,500 of these educators are more highly trained GEMS Associates who not only use GEMS with students but primarily serve as teacher-educators and present professional development workshops, courses, and institutes to colleagues in district, county, state, and national settings. Many GEMS Associates work collaboratively through the more than 35 GEMS Centers/Sites across the country (see the descriptions of current GEMS Centers and Sites in enclosed recent issues of the GEMS Network News). These Associates have the important job of linking GEMS training to curriculum, student learning, and professional development needs of their area. In the process of articulating GEMS units to address local, state, and national standards and guidelines, these Associates are providing us with invaluable information on the educational effectiveness and success of the GEMS program. The following examples showcase the efforts of a few of many GEMS Associates at these sites and centers who use GEMS instructional materials and professional development approaches to help meet the needs of all students and teachers in their region:

  • Austin, Texas GEMS Site: As Director of the Austin GEMS Site, Dr. Karen Ostlund has correlated every GEMS unit to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for math and science, to the NSES, and to the TAAS tests (see for example the alignment of 8th grade science to GEMS units). Her work shows how the learning goals of GEMS strongly reflect standards set by the Texas State Department of Education as well as the NSES (see the Associates Column on pages 4-5 of the Fall/Winter 1997 GEMS Network News.) Dr. Ostlund conducts GEMS workshops for teachers in Texas and around the country and has recently developed a "Super Saturday" inservice program for the Austin region, co-sponsored by the University of Texas. Dr. Ostlund's Co-Director, Mimi Halferty, is also an active presenter of GEMS, and has used GEMS for many years in her classrooms of Kindergarten and 1st and 2nd graders. Over a 3.5 year period, Dr. Ostlund and Ms. Halferty have conducted over 35 days of inservice for 600 teachers, teacher educators and administrators across the state of Texas.
  • Madison, New Jersey GEMS Site: Dr. Henry Gary is the GEMS Site Director and Director of the Science Education Center at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He reports that a number of districts in New Jersey have adopted GEMS units. Those public school districts intersect many cities including Plainfield, Edison, South Orange-Maplewood, Flemington, West New York, and Union City. These adoptions occurred following workshops he and other GEMS Associates conducted with teachers at the GEMS Site and school sites. They have received excellent feedback from teachers commenting on the effectiveness of the activities and how much the students gained from the experience. GEMS science units including Moons of Jupiter, Discovering Density, and Color Analyzers are being used as core program units to extend and enhance the existing science curricula.
  • Los Angeles Unified School District, California GEMS Center: As the third largest public school district in the nation, LAUSD has established five district Mathematics/ Science/Technology Centers to serve the math and science education needs of its 650,000 students. These five centers are supported by a NSF Urban Systemic Initiative. The East Los Angeles Center also serves as a GEMS Center providing GEMS training and materials to schools in their region, and the LAUSD GEMS Center Director is Anna Gaiter. The LAUSD is one of our most active sites, providing professional development to thousands of teachers in the past three years. The GEMS program has shown itself able to flexibly serve the diverse population, complex social issues, and linguistic diversity of the Los Angeles student population.
  • Seabrook, Texas GEMS Site: Myra Luciano is one of the key GEMS Associates working through this site near Houston. She has many years of classroom experience and for the past 5 years has presented GEMS workshops to colleagues at district summer institutes and conferences. She is a leading mathematics and science education mentor for her school and received a grant in 1997 from the Partners in Education Foundation, a local philanthropic group, to implement Build It! Festival at her elementary school. She conducted both a 1997 performance-based evaluation of Build It! Festival which showed considerable improvement in recognition of shapes and spatial sense and a 1999 study of Animal Defenses which showed that students learned and retained concepts conveyed in the GEMS unit. Overall, Ms. Luciano continues to play an important role as a GEMS consultant in her region and has impacted thousands of educators through her model lessons and workshop presentations.

 

Program Costs, Impact, and Implementation

GEMS guides are inexpensive, certainly one of the key factors in their accessibility to the individual teacher or school. They range in price from under $10 to several that are in the $30 range, with the average retail price approximately $15. Guides are distributed by Lawrence Hall of Science, through many science and math educational distributors, bookstores, catalogs, teacher supply stores, and other outlets. GEMS Leaders and Associates receive discounts, as do many distributors, including the National Science Teacher’s Association (NSTA) and a national book trade distributor. For the first 14 years of the program, teachers and districts have gathered their own materials, although a number of school districts and GEMS Network Sites or Centers have made materials kits for GEMS units and established lending libraries for these kits. More than 50 official GEMS Kits, produced in partnership with Sargent-Welch, are currently available. Prices for these kits are kept as reasonable as possible, with less complex kits under $75 and most kits ranging in price from $150 to $300. Costs for GEMS professional development workshops and institutes vary, depending on length and other factors. Grant-supported awareness workshops have often been offered free or for a nominal fee. The 3-day GEMS Leader’s or GEMS Associate’s Workshops have been offered for under $400 per person, and both include a large number of GEMS guides and handbooks as part of the fee.

GEMS units and curriculum sequences are used annually in many thousands of classrooms in public and private schools, by a wide spectrum of teachers, ranging from those starting out to those extremely experienced with inquiry-based curricula. GEMS is also used in a wide variety of professional development experiences, by many University professors in methods courses and when assisting their local school districts, by scientists in partnership programs with schools, by corporate and foundation education personnel in establishing regional alliances for improvement of science and math education, and by leading presenters at regional and national math and science conferences, such as NSTA and NCTM. A network of GEMS Leaders and Associates helps implement the program nationwide. These range from the Los Angeles Unified School District to Vero Beach, Florida; from an extensive network in Texas to Vancouver, Washington, from St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri to Bemidji, Minnesota and Port Huron, Michigan. Many sites are evolving areas of expertise; all offer professional development and regional support for teachers implementing reform in math and science education. GEMS staff and Site and Center Directors are also piloting real-time meetings on the Tapped-In Multi-User Virtual Environmental (MUVE) for educational exchange recently launched by the Stanford Research Institute and other groups. General GEMS information is provided there, as well as on the rapidly developing LHS website. GEMS is used in many diverse regions, and has been used successfully with students of differing racial and cultural backgrounds, girls and young women, and other groups historically underrepresented in math and science, with Navajo and other Native American students, English language learners of many nationalities, students facing learning or physical challenges, gifted students, etc. GEMS student sheets have been translated into Spanish. GEMS has also been used in after-school programs, at childcare centers, community centers, and at family events. Internationally, GEMS is used in Canada, Mexico (notably in Chiapas), other Central, South American and Caribbean nations, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Turkey, Spain, Finland, Denmark, and many other countries. Japanese language versions of GEMS Teacher's Guides will soon be available.

Due to the nature of the program, which is independently presented nationwide by many thousands of individual teachers each year, we do not have specific percentages of ethnic, racial, or gender participation. Based on our own testing histories, distribution of more than one million teacher’s guides, workshop records, and reports from GEMS Leaders/Associates, we know that a minimum of 600,000 teachers and 8 million students have experienced GEMS, and that this includes highly diverse urban and rural populations and much linguistic diversity. The local and national testing processes include a wide multiplicity of students, teachers, and regions. Specific GEMS units have been used very successfully in classes for developmentally disabled or other special needs students, gifted programs, National Council of La Raza after-school education programs, at community center, PTA, and Parent’s Day gatherings, in many less advantaged inner-city schools, as part of a rural distance learning project with interactive TV throughout the Northwest, in home schooling programs—in almost every venue imaginable. The highly accessible and flexible nature of the GEMS materials has contributed to their effective and rapidly expanding use nationally and internationally.

All GEMS units and the handbook series pay careful attention to describing the conditions and resources involved in presenting the activity in the classroom and/or implementing GEMS on a school or district level. On a unit level, there are detailed instructions in the "What You Need" and "Getting Ready" sections to fully advise teachers of easy-to-obtain materials and preparation steps needed in order to present the activities. The GEMS Teacher’s Handbook and GEMS Leader’s Handbook include general advice on the transition to and presentation of activity-based science and more specific ideas for professional development initiatives, while the Architecture of Reform provides a basic outline of how one might undertake curriculum planning and evolve a "local plan" for the implementation of science education reform (pages 57–65). At the most basic level, presentation of a GEMS unit requires a teacher’s guide and acquisition of the needed materials. The GEMS Kit Builder’s Handbook provides full materials lists for GEMS Teacher's Guides, and has been helpful to those teachers, districts, and sites that build and maintain kits. Other users can take advantage of the more costly but time efficient purchase of kits.

The educational effects of the GEMS program are definitely beneficial for students and teachers when costs in time and money are considered. As a supplementary program, GEMS is often used in a time-efficient manner by teachers, combining relatively succinct GEMS units with textbooks or other programs. All activity-based programs require some materials gathering and advanced preparation. Some GEMS units are more preparation-intensive than others, but these, including many of the chemistry units as well as the very involving Mystery Festival, have high benefits in student interest, motivation, and learning. Preparation checklists are often provided to help teachers organize the tasks. The tradeoffs involved are carefully explained to the teacher and numerous tips are provided to streamline preparation, gain assistance from student teams, parents, or aides, and obtain donations from the community. Several GEMS handbooks, especially the "1001 Ideas" section of the GEMS Leader’s Handbook (pages 33–76) contain suggestions and helpful hints for teachers to save time and expense and yet present activity-based science in highly effective and efficient ways.

Under the heading "science is for all students" the NSES strongly advocate that all students should be able to experience and benefit from excellent science education. The Architecture of Reform handbook seconds this important part of the "common vision." GEMS has been grounded in this goal since its inception, in regard to multicultural and gender equity issues, and also due to a commitment to activities that can be presented by all teachers, including those without specialized math and science background, while utilizing accessible and economical materials. The respectful and non-condescending tone of the guides is often cited as one reason for the appeal to teachers. In the text, editorial care is taken to promote respect for diverse cultures and avoid the use of sexist or any other prejudicial language. A number of examples of guides that reflect cultural diversity are noted earlier. On Sandy Shores and several recently released units (Only One Ocean and Ocean Currents) adapt activity structures designed to assist students who are English language learners in both acquiring language and learning science. GEMS student data sheets have been translated into Spanish to allow more effective presentation of activities in settings where such translations are needed. The photographs in GEMS units, cover designs, literature connections, resources, and poems are selected with attention to representing the wide spectrum of students and teachers. The cover of Height-O-Meters, for example, shows a young woman student in a wheelchair taking active part in an outdoor measuring activity. Stories in Stone features selections from Chilean poet Pablo Neruda while River Cutters includes a famous poem by African-American poet Langston Hughes. The vast majority of GEMS guides include photographs depicting a high proportion of girls/young women taking active roles, and there is high representation of African-American, Latin, Asian, and other non-white students. GEMS has also consulted with others as needed on issues of cultural sensitivity. This was of particular importance to the non-stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans in the Investigating Artifacts guide. In issues of curriculum construction and pedagogy, GEMS has been guided by the understanding that cooperative learning, manifested in all GEMS units, and activity-based learning in general, can be facilitators of equity and equality of access.



Special Considerations and Conclusion

There is ample evidence of the widespread distribution of GEMS and its active and continued use by many thousands of teachers, with more reached each month as leadership and awareness workshops are held nationwide, testing for new units proceeds, more sites and centers are launched, as GEMS Kits become available, and as teachers hear about a new or classic unit and contact GEMS. The scale of GEMS implementation in many different settings suggests significant impact, scope, and importance. These units are solidly grounded in inquiry-based pedagogy and provide teachers with creative, accessible, innovative, and highly practical knowledge of effective teaching and learning. In addition to all the elements of scientific (and mathematical) content, learning, standards, and assessment described in this submission, there is a strong emphasis on teamwork and cooperative learning. GEMS units also extend into many other disciplines, including writing and literature, art, and diverse cultures, and as such contribute to the formation of the "whole student" while helping students understand the connections and underlying conceptual frameworks of many branches of human knowledge. Research studies indicate that specific GEMS units increase student understanding of key content and process skills. Specific evidence of positive differences in student learning will be considered in later sections of this submission. Information derived from teacher and student feedback during testing, unsolicited teacher anecdotes and letters, student work sent in during testing or gathered for assessment, evaluation studies of programs that used GEMS units, and classroom pilot testing of our assessment tasks—all testify to a positive impact on student attitudes toward science and math. In addition, the implementation of a variety of flexible GEMS curriculum sequences through GEMS regional sites, as well as numerous other school districts, provides not only a strong indication of scope and importance, but a promising framework for the development of independent research studies to demonstrate the effectiveness of GEMS units. As we enter an era of increasing emphasis on the achievement of national standards and as curricula are increasingly evaluated for their effectiveness, it is our intention to undertake such studies, in a variety of forms. Within this context, information gained from such studies will be carefully applied to the development of new units and the revision of existing ones.

The rapid expansion of the GEMS Network, and the training of more than 15,000 GEMS Leaders and close to 1,500 GEMS Associates suggests that the GEMS program is an extremely fertile field for the spread of effective inquiry-based teaching practices and current approaches to professional development. GEMS staff keep themselves apprised of current professional development approaches and have incorporated these ideas into advanced Associates and Associates II workshops. As The Architecture of Reform points out, the "one shot" workshop model is not adequate and more sustained models are required (pages 63-64). Instructional materials can play a critical role in teacher change—GEMS units are "teacher’s guides," and they provide step-by-step instructions, pedagogical explanations, logistical suggestions, frameworks to elicit and guide discussions, ways to analyze data and findings, background information, and assessments—all to enable all teachers to present effective inquiry-based math and science. As such, GEMS units can and do serve as exemplars in methods and preservice courses, helping prepare new teachers and transform practices of more traditional teachers. GEMS units are often presented independently at national and regional conferences, as part of district educational presentations, and at teacher-education events of all kinds. In addition, the GEMS Handbook Series serves as an accessible resource for teachers. For example, the GEMS Teacher’s Handbook and GEMS Leader’s Handbook include summaries of the inquiry-based, guided-discovery approach, along with emphasis on questioning strategies, collaborative work, the learning cycle, and issues associated with transition from a more traditional approach to an activity-based curriculum. The literature handbook (Once Upon A GEMS Guide) connects science and literature, reaching additional teachers. Many handbooks include information that relates to inquiry-based science in general, not only to GEMS. In fact, GEMS units have also served, in many regions, as a successful and accessible catalyst for teachers to work towards gaining confidence in presentation of other well-known inquiry-based programs of a more comprehensive nature (such as FOSS, Insights, or STC). This is a useful function, given the uneven nature of reform from state to state and region to region. All this suggests that GEMS makes significant contributions to teachers’ knowledge of effective teaching and learning. GEMS is also actively involved in a series of parent education programs, some of which are aimed at improving teacher relationships with parents and the community, thus also contributing to more effective teaching and learning. The handbook Parent Partners: Workshops to Foster SchoolHome/Family Partnerships supports this goal.

GEMS is designed to improve learning for all students—to reach the widest and most diverse section of students (and teachers) possible. We have much information from trial-test teachers, letters, and other comment as to the ability of GEMS to meet special needs of students with learning or physical challenges, as well as under-served and underrepresented groups. We are moved by stories such as one in the "Galaxy Classroom" evaluation, where the activities moved a student who had never before spoken in class to make his first comments. The engaging, science-as-questioning, investigating-more-deeply quality of GEMS also means that special learning needs of students whose interests and talents go beyond core math or science education, including gifted students and students engaged in home schooling or independent study, are well served by GEMS units. A deep commitment to all students is represented in the language and presentation of GEMS, as is a genuine sense of discovery and investigation—qualities with appeal to a wide range and multiplicity of teachers and students. There is always room for improvement and, as we work alongside many other excellent programs, all of us have much to learn. We hope the GEMS program will make its own modest contribution to the many future transformations and innovations in science education that loom as we move through the 21st century.

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