DLS-IIS and the Inquiry Hub

The Inquiry Hub is a design research partnership between Denver Public Schools (DPS) and a multidisciplinary research team that includes experts in mathematics and science education, curriculum, and educational technology from the University of Colorado Boulder and UCAR’s IIS-DLS programs. In design research partnerships, researchers and educators collaboratively design, build, and test solutions to persistent problems of practice.

Currently, IIS-DLS is collaboratively studying how co-design can support equitable implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The dual objectives underlying this approach are: 1) to provide all students with opportunities to engage in meaningful and personally relevant science learning that reflects the vision of “A Framework for K-12 Science Education” and 2) to expand the agency of participants implementing this vision, especially teacher and student participants. With funding from the NSF Cyberlearning Program, DLS-IIS is also studying how next generation learning technologies can enhance student learning and participation, and how these technologies can be used to enhance teacher and student agency in the design and implementation process.

An eight-week ecosystem unit was designed last summer, and was piloted in seven high school biology classrooms in Denver this past spring. This unit used an online application developed by IIS-DLS that enables students to conduct fieldwork; collect photos of organisms observed; and then to represent, visualize, and reason about the relationships between the organisms.

EcoSurvey Data Card Example

The EcoSurvey Workspace is an integrated set of tools, implemented using Google-based technologies, that enables students to do science in a collaborative and deeply digital fashion. Students find and photograph organisms in the field using their smartphones, and then work together to identify, research, and catalog them in a collaborative digital workspace. The digital system enables new understanding regarding the relationships by providing a visual representation (relationship graph) of the data they have cataloged. The relationship graph produced by the system is, however, only a starting point in this process. By rearranging, annotating, and otherwise embellishing the graph, students can construct their own interpretation and points of emphasis, turning the machine-generated graph into a mutually constructed and personally meaningful conceptual model.

Relationship Graph Example


Another key feature of the co-designed curriculum is a culminating design challenge with a citizen-science component. In the ecosystem unit, students researched and proposed an appropriate species of tree to plant in Denver in order to mitigate human impacts on the environment, benefit people, and increase biodiversity.  Collaboration with Denver Parks and Recreation allowed for actual tree planting to occur at the participating schools at the end of the semester.

This summer co-design of a second unit on Evolution began at a workshop hosted by UCAR. Teacher-researcher teams are now working on scoping the storyline of the unit, and on identifying an appropriate design challenge and citizen science project as the culminating activity. The Evolution Unit will be piloted later this fall in 11 DPS high school classrooms.


About UCP

The UCAR Community Programs provide innovative resources, tools, and services in support of the research and education goals of the atmospheric and Earth system sciences community.

A major focus for UCP is making sure the science from NCAR and UCAR institutions is translated in novel ways to a variety of audiences and stakeholders.

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