A robust understanding of disciplinary core ideas and practices is necessary for obtaining jobs in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields and making everyday informed decisions. Despite these occupational and practical affordances, early elementary school teachers have limited materials at their disposal to promote a rich knowledge of science among the full range of learners. Additionally, the field has yet to develop reliable and valid science assessments that effectively document students’ knowledge of complex phenomena.


  • Fully developed second-grade science program
  • Reliable and valid science achievement measure
  • Science, mathematics, and reading achievement
  • Evidence-based teaching practices

Project Design


The primary aim of this project is to iteratively design and empirically evaluate a second-grade science program to promote an early foundation for learning science among all students, including students at risk for or with learning disabilities and dyslexia. Specifically, the Scientific Explorers program will be designed to improve students’ knowledge and understanding of disciplinary core ideas and cross-cutting concepts related to Earth’s Systems in the Next Generation Science Standards. Another aim of this project is to develop and empirically validate a science assessment that measures students’ knowledge and application of disciplinary core ideas and practices related to Earth’s Systems.


Employing a mixed-method approach, this project will investigate the feasibility and efficacy of the Scientific Explorers program. Additional research activities will include establishing the reliability and validity of the second-grade science assessment. Using multilevel modeling and item response theory techniques, this project will address the following three primary research questions:

  1. To what extent can teachers feasibly implement the Scientific Explorers program?
  2. What is the impact of Scientific Explorers on the science achievement of students in participating classrooms?
  3. To what extent does the early science achievement measure demonstrate technical adequacy (reliability and validity)?


Approximately 40 second-grade classrooms from two different geographical regions will participate. The program will be designed for the full range of learners but have a specific focus on students with or at risk for learning disabilities, including dyslexia.

Contact Information

Chris Doabler
Principal Investigator

Principal Investigators

  • Chris Doabler
  • Sarah Powell

Non-MCPER Principal Investigators

  • Vic Sampson, UT Austin
  • William Therrien, University of Virginia

Collaborative Partners

Funding Agency


  • July 2017 to June 2021


  • Austin, Texas
  • Charlottesville, Virginia


For more information, visit the National Science Foundation website.