National Science Foundation awards $1.2 million for science education in Boston area schools


The National Science Foundation awarded three Massachusetts companies that focus on science education and residential energy efficiency a combined $1.2 million grant over the next three years.

Next Step Living, Concord Consortium, and The Virtual High School will use the grant, announced Thursday, to initially teach about 2,000 students in greater Boston area schools how to create an in-home energy assessment using infrared cameras, sensors, and building design software, according to a Next Step Living press release.

Next Step Living, a company that offers energy-saving solutions for homeowners, created a new program, Next Step Learning, to develop a technology-based curriculum called Building Science Investigations. The curriculum, developed in conjunction with Concord Consortium, a nonprofit that connects education with technology, will meet the Next Generation Science Standards of 2013 that emphasize active learning through science and engineering practices.

Science and technology teachers will teach the new curriculum, and Next Step Living representatives will mentor the students. Next Step Living said tentatively confirmed pilot schools include Arlington Public Schools, North Reading High School, Bird Middle School in East Walpole, and Mansfield High School.

“In the long run, this project will be a win for everyone — schools will have a free curriculum to engage students in applied science, students will be better prepared for science and engineering careers at the end, businesses will benefit from increased energy literacy of the general public, and the Earth will be better off as a result,” Charles Xie said in the press release, a senior scientist at Concord Consortium.

Phase one of the project will focus on developing the curriculum, science experiments, and benchmarks and the program will launch in the schools during phase two, as early as February 2016. Using resources from the companies involved, students will create home energy assessment projects that are similar to estimations completed by building and solar industry professionals.

Xie, principal investigator of the project, said the goal is for parents to follow up with home energy professionals after becoming aware of energy issues through their children’s work.

To reach more students, The Virtual High School, an online learning platform, will administer a version of the curriculum through its network of 800 schools.

Created by Congress in 1950, the National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency that supports all science and engineering fields and has an annual budget of $7.3 billion.