Our curriculum team has been developing the 13-hour curricular unit (fourth – sixth grade) with a team of scientists, doctoral students and education experts. Researchers has shown the 5E (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate) structure for the order of the lessons and types of activities included were successful in a variety of classrooms. The 5 E’s were modified to 4E’s and an S (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Synthesize) to better fit the goals of this curriculum. The 5Es have been used both in the individual lessons as well as to guide the overall curricular unit which ends with a student presentation of biodiversity findings and solutions. Because of the comprehensiveness of this project, several persons of varying expertise, including technology with badging and professional development experts have been working diligently alongside the curriculum development team to ensure continuity of lessons and activities throughout all aspects of this work.
A unique feature of the Philly Scientists project is the inclusion of digital badges. Digital badges refer to the practice of awarding and certifying accomplishments and recognition for skills, interests or cognitive demonstrations, such as those demonstrated in immersive tasks similar to those in online games. Each badge describes the accomplishment of experiences that were required for the achievement. The Philly Scientists digital badges can be stacked in order to achieve higher levels or final badges. Optional badges can also be earned to encourage students and teachers to engage in the project outside of the formal learning environment. Additionally, the student digital badges promote career awareness goals such collection and observational skills through the Urban Scientist badge. The learning pathway for digital badging provides links between the badge, demonstrated task, and career awareness goal for the lesson.