Date of Award

Spring 2016

Document Type

Masters Plan B


Science & Mathematics Teaching Center


Dr. Ana Houseal, Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Dorothy Tuthill, Member

Third Advisor

Dr. Jenna Shim, Outside Member


When developing science curriculum that incorporates the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), research has shown that it is important for teachers to adapt their units in order to provide context and meaning to what their students are learning. Place based education (PBE) is one way to provide this meaning within context (Sobel, 2004). NGSS can provide all students an equal opportunity to become scientifically literate (Lee, Miller, & Januszyk, 2014). Since 1995, the population of English Language Learners (ELLs) in the United States has increased by 57% (Maxwell 2009). ELLs across the nation share the same common challenge of learning English while also meeting the academic content demands (Bautista & Castaneda, 2011). There has been no research conducted to date that incorporates these three elements into curriculum development. Therefore, this research project aimed to look at how a science unit could be developed using PBE principles, NGSS, and ELL best practices in order to (a) increase understanding of scientific concepts related to the sagebrush ecosystem for 5th grade students; (b) incorporate diverse instructional strategies, intended to enhance the student’s connection to place and (c) include strategies and best practices for ELLs in order to meet these students’ language needs without sacrificing content. The project concluded that principles of PBE and ELLs can serve as guides for developing science curriculum that aligns with NGSS. The combination of these three frameworks help to create an equal-opportunity, learning environment through creating common experiences, holding all students to the same standards, and providing needed language scaffolding and modifications without sacrificing content.

The completed curriculum can be accessed here:5th Grade Ecology Unit: A Sagebrush Expedition.