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Building Bridges Between CS and Bio

As computing has become integral to the practice of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), the STEM+Computing program seeks to address emerging challenges in computational STEM areas through the applied integration of computational thinking and computing activities within STEM teaching and learning in early childhood education through high school (preK-12). This project will develop, implement, and test an innovative modular curriculum for high school biology that integrates computing and computational thinking with science content and practices. The curriculum will be developed by a transdisciplinary team consisting of university specialists in biology and computer science, two graduate students, two undergraduate students, two high school students, and four high school teachers. The team will design and implement an experimental system that integrates biology practices and computing components to address complex real-world biological problems. Teachers will employ the experimental system during a summer institute, and will use it to develop and pilot test a modular curriculum that focuses on a complex real-world problem, pollinator decline. The curricular strategy being tested is generalizable, and can be modified to address other biological questions, and complex real-world problems in other STEM fields.
This proof of principle study will examine the effectiveness of a transdisciplinary team in designing, developing, and testing modular curricula that integrate scientific practices and computer science approaches used to model complex natural systems. Project activities are guided by two research questions: (1) Is developing a transdisciplinary, vertically integrated team comprised of biologists, computer scientists and education specialists a transformative precursor for the generation of effective computational tools and STEM+C curriculum? And (2) Will a modular curriculum incorporating computing and computational thinking into scientific practices allow teachers to effectively deliver classroom content to students at multiple levels in biology and computer science? The curriculum will engage students and teachers in scientific practices using biological data that they collect themselves, and computational tools that they design and implement to address a complex real-world problem, pollinator decline and loss of biodiversity. Curriculum quality, modularity, and effectiveness will be measured using multiple instruments, including surveys of curriculum quality and implementation feasibility, pre and post testing of both teachers and students on biology and computer science content knowledge and scientific practices, and attitudes toward biology and computer science.