FIRST STEP Online is the culmination of a teacher enhancement project, Federal laboratories' Involvement in Research in Science and Technology for Science Teacher Enhancement (FIRST STEP), funded by National Science Foundation (NSF) and United States Department of Agriculture/ Agriculture Research Service/ Southern Plans Area (USDA/ARS/SPA). It was designed to combine the expertise of a research scientist and a science teacher to bring actual research into middle school classrooms. The model is as follows:

1. Each teacher spent two weeks in a USDA/ARS research lab working with a research scientist. The focus was on developing an "inquiry lesson" that would actively engage their students in part/s of the scientist's research program.

2. The teacher then went to Texas A&M University at College Station for a two-week summer institute focused on inquiry learning and constructivist pedagogy to help in the development of their "mini-research unit".

Summer Institute

3. The teacher then returned to their local USDA/ARS lab for a week to fine-tune and complete the "inquiry lesson".

Teacher Sue Warmann building a classroom - friendly hydroponics apparatus with the help of her scientist -Mike Grusak.

4. During the school year, the teacher and scientist worked with their students on the "inquiry lesson".

In this unit, each tray was filled with a different hydroponics solution. The control tray had a complete set of nutrients.

10 of the more successful "inquiry lessons" now comprise FIRST STEP Online.

Funded by:
USDA/ARS/Southern Plains Area
Director Dr. Charles Onstad
The Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Statement of Support:
This material is based upon work supported by the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Agreement Number 2002-45055-01425 administered by Cornell University and American Distance Education Consortium (ADEC).

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.