Two SMATE Professors Receive Funding to Explore the Salish Sea Curriculum from the National Science Foundation

Submitted by leee31 on Thu, 02/22/2024 - 15:46
Two breaching orca whales in the ocean

CREST (Centers of Research Excellence in Science and Technology) Center, a part of the National Science Foundation, awards provide support to enhance the research capabilities of Minority-serving institutions (MSIs) through the establishment of centers that effectively integrate education and research. CREST Center awards promote the development of new knowledge, enhancements of the research productivity of individual faculty, and an expanded presence of students historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.  


Dr. Debi Hanuscin (ECEM) and Dr. Josie Melton (SMATE) applied for and received a $1.7 million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation.  The 3-year project is entitled “CREST: Culturally Responsive Elementary Science Teaching” and aims to advance equitable science education in the elementary years.


CREST is a collaboration between faculty in WWU’s Science, Math, and Technology Education (SMATE) program and Western’s Woodring College of Education as well as local school districts, tribal nations, and community partners.


The project will provide high-quality practicum-based professional development for elementary teachers to prepare them to implement the Explore the Salish Sea (ESS) curriculum, a place-and project-based science curriculum grounded in both Western science and traditional ecological knowledge from Indigenous communities. Over three years, the project will work with a cohort of 30 elementary teachers, 30 preservice teachers, and approximately 1,700 students in Whatcom and Skagit counties. 


Explore the Salish Sea  is a place- and project-based science curriculum built on the popular kids’ book, Explore the Salish Sea: A Nature Guide for Kids. Each unit expands on a theme from one chapter of our book. Each presents students with a sea-related mystery or problem to figure out. Students become Nature Detectives and work in Explore Teams to gather clues. Clue-gathering occurs through games, songs, scientific articles, Coast Salish stories, guest experts, and more and leads students to develop a research question.


Please join me in congratulating Dr. Hanuscin and Dr. Melton for this accomplishment and the important work and outreach they plan to do with 30 inservice teachers, 30 preservice teachers, and 1,700 students throughout the Whatcom and Skagit counties via funding from this NSF grant!


National Science Foundation - CREST:


Explore the Salish Sea Curricuum:


Dr. Debi Hanuscin:


Dr. Josie Melton: