The RISE Project

Readiness through Integrative Science and Engineering
Led by Christine McWayne and Jayanthi Mistry at Tufts University and colleagues, Daryl Greenfield from the University of Miami,  Betty Zan at the University of Northern Iowa, and Kimberly Brenneman at the Heising-Simons Foundation (and formerly, the National Institute of Early Education Research – NIEER), the RISE project focused upon developing ecologically valid, culturally relevant integrative preschool curriculum components and home-school collaboration to support young dual language learners’ (DLL) school success.
Two main aspects of RISE are: (1) science, technology and engineering (STE) early learning; and (2) home-school collaboration (HSC) forged through authentic exploration of families’ funds of knowledge, daily activities with their children, and home routines related to STE. Through the RISE project, we are co-constructing an integrated STE curriculum with Head Start teachers and parents, informed by national and state science and engineering standards, while focusing on authentic relationship-building, capacity-building, and continuity as key aspects of the curriculum development and implementation process.

Five Elements of the RISE Approach

A Focus on Dual Language Learners (DLLs)

Curricular models rich with opportunities for science inquiry and engineering problem-solving are particularly well-suited to engage DLL children through hands-on, minds-on learning that builds on their curiosity about the natural and human-made world.

Science, Technology, and Engineering (STE) Integration

RISE focuses on purposeful engagement of preschool teachers and children in both the explanation-seeking behavior of science and the problem-solving behavior of engineering and technological endeavors.

Home-School Collaboration (HSC), Beyond Home Extension Activities

The RISE project seeks to bring children's out-of-school contexts into classrooms by supporting, non-hierarchal and reciprocal dialogues between parents and teachers. RISE is built on the belief that schools can leverage families' unique contributions to their children's learning to get children “ready for school.”

A Multi-Method Approach to Teacher Professional Development

Our theory of teacher change is informed by research on effective professional development (PD). PD that affects classroom instruction requires practice-based, individualized, ongoing supports, such as those offered by workshop series, coaching, and peer workgroups.

Co-Construction, at the Core of the Iterative Development Process

The RISE project focuses on a co-construction process linking STE and HSC by connecting the research team to the parent and teacher participants via our professional development approach. In our approach to curriculum development, we are guided by concerns for ecological validity and classroom sustainability, sociocultural relevance, and fostering STE learning by supporting children’s natural interests about the world around them. Key to achieving our goals with our partner teachers is recognition that: reflective practice is essential for teacher change; individual variations in implementation and of teacher trajectories are to be expected; all processes and products are documented and used for reflection and for informing the next steps together.

RISE Sample Curriculum

Parent Leaders/
Community Experts

Joint Activities

Discussion Groups

Parent Leaders/Community Experts

The RISE approach to family engagement is based on recognizing and affirming families' experiential knowledge and expertise. Groups of parent leaders/community experts at each site participated in Parent Leader Meetings during which parents shared their knowledge about the home, community, and neighborhood settings where their children spent their daily lives.

Neighborhood Walks

  • Parent Leaders shared their knowledge of the local neighborhood by mapping routes for researchers to follow. On these neighborhood walks, researchers took photographs of the buildings, physical environments, and natural landscapes that were familiar to children.

Home Observations

  • Parent Leaders opened their homes so researchers could observe children at home and learn about the natural STE opportunities and resources that were part of children's daily lives.

Joint Activities

Joint Activities were a key strategy used to facilitate non-hierarchical and reciprocal exchanges between teachers and parents. Joint Activities were employed at various points throughout the RISE project to create common ground, a sense of shared responsibility, and to inspire STE integration and co-construction of curriculum that builds on knowledge of children's cultures and communities.

A Scrapbook "Our Children's Worlds"

  • Parents and teachers worked together to create a scrapbook titled, "Our Children's Worlds" from photos taken of the classrooms, their homes, and communities.

Structures Using Recyclables

  • Parents and teachers came together to build replicas of meaningful structures that reflect children's communities.

Science Activities with Parents

  • Parents and teachers explored different STE activities that could build on what parents were already doing at home and in the community, and discussed ideas for how they could implement these activities in their children's classrooms.

Parent-Teacher Discussion Groups

In Parent-Teacher Discussion groups, the researchers supported teachers in "giving over the floor" to parents, which over time led to non-hierarchical discussions about culture and context.

Discussion Topic: School Readiness

  • Teachers allow space for parents to share what they to do support their children's readiness for school.

Discussion Topic: Cultural Ingredients

  • Recognizing connections across each other's unique cultural contexts, parents and teachers share recipes for soups they make in their homes (or for their families).

Discussion Topic: Parent Engagement

  • Immigrant parents talk with Head Start teachers (some of whom are immigrants themselves) about barriers they experience to participating in their children's education.

Discussion Topic: Affection

  • Chinese immigrant parents and teachers talk about their cultural perspectives on public displays of affection with children contrasted with Western norms.