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Evidence of narrowing the gap in achievement of accomplishment
between diverse groups.


The GEMS unit Experimenting with Model Rockets was specifically designed to encourage the full participation of girls and young women in the activities and was successful in doing so. Experiment 1 of the study "Learning to Control Variables with Model Rockets" showed that both boys and girls were successful in designing controlled experiments. In the control experiment, Experiment 2, while both boys and girls did significantly better on the post-test, girls did even better than boys (boys, t = 2.72, p< 0.025; girls, t = 3.24, p<0.025). Dr. Sneider has explained that, in addition to model rockets having been a traditionally male domain, interviews and anecdotal evidence during early stages of the rocketry activities in the study suggested that the way the goals of the activity were framed had a significant impact on participation by girls/young women. As advisors on the study, partly funded by NSF, he enlisted the expertise of the EQUALS program at LHS, then directed by Nancy Kreinberg, and involved leaders of the Girl Scouts of America to help address this issue and promote gender equity. Through a combination of what was learned through interviewing students as part of the study, and consultation with advisors, a major change in how the activities were initially described was proposed. It was found that girls were much more responsive to the activities when the teacher or youth leader emphasized that the object of the activities was to work together to design a good experiment in order to find out why some rockets fly higher than others (rather than a contest to see whose rocket flies the highest). The strong participation and success of girls in the study supported this approach. Several years later, during the GEMS testing process this lesson was emphasized and enthusiastic involvement of girls/young woman was again reported. Therefore, the GEMS guide instructs the teacher: "Emphasize that the goal is not for their rocket to fly the highest, but to design a good experiment, in order to find out why some rockets fly higher than others." (page 17, Experimenting with Model Rockets). The introduction to the unit explains, "Although boys have traditionally been more involved in building and launching model rockets, any initial reluctance on the part of girls is almost always overcome once the activity begins. It is important to stress to all students that the goal of these activities is to design good experiments to figure out why some rockets fly higher than others, rather than competing to see whose rocket flies the highest. Girls who wish to work together can form their own teams. Many of the organizations and advisors who took part in testing and modifying these activities were especially attuned to obstacles girls encounter in pursuing science and mathematics careers. This series of activities can enable girls to gain greater confidence, perhaps even helping ‘launch’ some on career paths that would not have been considered several decades ago." (Experimenting with Model Rockets, page 3, 1989, 1991, 1997).

The PRISM (Primary Institute in Science and Mathematics) Project (1990–1997)
The Woodside Consortium Evaluation was conducted by Dr. Steven Schneider and Susan Arbuckle. PRISM used many GEMS units as curricular exemplars, and the evaluation includes some data relating to equity. In the pre-institute questionnaire for the third summer institute, participants were asked to rank their current level of understanding in a number of teaching strategies and conceptual approaches, including "Equity strategies for teaching traditionally underrepresented groups including LEP, physically challenged, girls, and ethnically diverse classes." A paired T-test was conducted to test the level of significance of the outcomes of the pre- and post-institute levels of understanding. All of the strategies were found to be statistically significant (p < .001). For every concept, the level of understanding increased. In the pre-institute questionnaire, the mean levels of confidence ranged from 2.0 (weak) to 3.4 (strong) and in the post-institute questionnaire, the mean levels of confidence ranged from 3.5 (average) to 4.7 (very strong). While only an indication via teacher surveys of increased attention to these issues, it is notable that this was one of the emphases of the PRISM program and that GEMS units were utilized to foster these equity strategies.

The Galaxy Classroom Project (Pilot Program 1991-1995) funded by Hughes Air and NSF. There are several anecdotal accounts from the Galaxy program that relate to this heading. A special education student at one of the urban schools "never misses an opportunity to let anyone within hearing distance know that he plans to become scientist so that he can ‘do Galaxy stuff forever and ever!’" A third grade teacher in a "predominantly Hispanic school" told how one student of hers had never spoken, not one word. She read his file and found that his silence had been a concern for some time. She continues, "In my class he was very well behaved, he did his work, he simply never spoke. Since he has been working in the Galaxy classroom, he has changed. He talks now. He talks with kids in his cooperative group and he occasionally responds aloud to events in the show. We have been working with him carefully; he has come a very long way. This week he raised his hand to answer a question in class." (GEMS Network News, Spring/Summer 1994, pages 20, 21.)


Anecdotal Information: In addition to efforts to reflect an include he full range of diversity in GEMS publications and programs, as noted in other parts of the submission, we have considerable anecdotal information, along with written and oral reports from our national network of sites and centers to confirm that GEMS activities are often singled out by teachers for their accessibility to all students and their ability to both engage students who have not previously been motivated in science and mathematics and enable them to gain a sense of success. Classroom observation during the GEMS testing process pays special attention to the social composition and other special characteristics of the class. It was during local trial testing, for example, that GEMS staff members saw three boys who the teacher often had to send out to the playground with an aide because they were so disruptive become completely involved in one of the strategy activities from the GEMS guide Frog Math. In another class, testing the GEMS guide Bubble Festival, a boy whose family was homeless and who normally did not participate in class became, after a word of encouragement to the effect that (as the GEMS unit emphasizes) he could explore in his own way, focused for an entire class period on figuring out a creative way of measuring bubbles using non-standard units. He then started wondering about how to measure volume.

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