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Focus on English Learners through School–University–Community Partnership

About Science 20/20

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Project Description

Science 20/20 is a teacher professional development initiative focused on providing emergent bilingual children (K-6) in a nascent immigrant destination with equitable access to inclusive, responsive, and consequential language learning opportunities. Family engagement is central to the mission and work of the project.

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Guiding Principles

Three guiding principles inform the work of the project:

  • Engaging all students as partners in knowledge building;

  • Inviting productive participation in language learning and sensemaking in science; and

  • Using formative assessment to drive culturally responsive instruction.

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Professional Development Model

Through a combination of formal professional development institutes and job-embedded professional learning, teachers craft professional learning plans based on problems of practice; implement their plans with support from university partners; document their progress through artifacts of teaching and learning; and co-design resources for other educators based on their work.


Why Language Development?


ELs develop STEM knowledge and language proficiency when they are engaged in meaningful interaction in the classroom that includes participation in the kinds of activities in which STEM experts and professionals regularly engage. Whereas there is no language without content, there is some content that is less dependent on language. STEM subjects afford opportunities for alternate routes to knowledge acquisition (i.e., experimentation, demonstration of phenomena, and demonstration of practices) through which students can gain a sense of STEM content without resorting predominantly to language to access meaning—it is through this experience that language is also learned.

~ National Academies Press English Learners in

   STEM Subjects pg. 16

Why Science in the Early Grades?

Science serves as rich academic content for language development for several key reasons:

  • Children are naturally curious about how the world works.

  • Children have rich local knowledge, lived experiences, and interests in science.

  • Next generation science engages learners in scientific practices to “figure out” explanations for phenomena based on evidence.

  • Productive participation in science involves literacy domains and practices – speaking, listening, writing and reading – which support language development and sensemaking.

  • Children can represent their ideas and thinking in multiple ways that do not rely solely on their ability to read and write in English.


Science 20/20 Teacher Perspective

They [Science 20/20 Staff] have such an impact on our students. They take a genuine interest in them and want to hear what they have to say. When the children see them coming, they know something special is in store. And Science 20/20 has, in particular, made me see science differently. Our students are not afraid to ask questions and discuss with each other new learning and new thinking. ~Sarah Molli Grade 2


Project Resources

Science 20/20 Partners


Contact Us


Please contact our project coordinator,

May Lee, at or 814-863-4500.

Project Office

209A Rackley Building

Penn State University

University Park, Pennsylvania 16802

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