NHW Ad in Astronomy Magazine


New Horizons West, Inc.
Abstract

New Horizons West, Inc. provides academic programming in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields that increases academic achievement and college and career aspirations in STEM. To remain competitive in a global economy, students need to be better prepared to participate in STEM careers as scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and technologists.

The educational program capitalizes on youth’s need to belong to peer groups and social networks through the use of online virtual simulations in the STEM fields. Social capital enables youth to develop the necessary attitudes, effort, and conception of self they need to succeed in school and as adults. An online virtual simulation can provide social capital by affording access to cultural and vocational resources, and acquainting youth with people of different occupational and social roles. The online simulations in the STEM fields are designed to create career aspirations in those areas, and students are able to communicate with scientists and engineers. The content is aligned with the National Science Standards.

Students who complete online modules can then earn a trip to the ranch. Located at the foot of the Chiricahua Mountains, Rancho Hidalgo Reserve is the location that youth will be able to visit to gain experiential knowledge of astronomy, geology, bird-watching, horseback riding, and more once they complete the online simulation. Alternative instructional models are utilized that make hands-on, problem solving, project-based learning approaches available in an effort to assist youth in increasing academic achievement in STEM. These high quality, out-of-school time learning opportunities address both academic and non-academic barriers to learning, and promote and sustain college and career aspirations in the STEM field.

The educational program is designed to raise student achievement by improving teacher quality and supporting exemplary standard’s based instructional materials. Teacher education, ability, and experience account for more variation in student achievement than all other factors. Studies have found that 40% to 90% of the differences in student test scores can be attributed to teacher quality. There is also evidence pointing to a correlative effect between continuing professional development and improved student learning. Teachers can take regular visits to the ranch with youth for experiences in astronomy, archeology, biology, and incorporating engineering. Faculty work with local researchers and educators, and teachers in the program are involved in creating curriculum.

The online virtual simulations utilize a pre-test posttest design. The surveys are designed to measure attitude, aspirations, and content knowledge in STEM fields. Youth take the survey before beginning a simulation, and at the conclusion of the simulation. Academic achievement is measured utilizing standards-based measurements.

Dr. Gloria Dunnivan, Ph.D. October 29, 2009



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