National Science Foundation Awards $3.27 million to Denver Museum of Nature & Science for Urban Advantage Metro Denver Partnership Program

Education Grant Will Partner School Districts with Science-Based Cultural Institutions to Improve Science Education for Middle School Students

DENVER-September 8, 2010-The Denver Museum of Nature & Science has been awarded the largest federal grant in its history, $3.27 million from the National Science Foundation for a five-year project to implement and study a science education program called Urban Advantage Metro Denver (UA Metro Denver).

UA Metro Denver is a partnership program between three public school districts and three science-based cultural institutions designed to improve science literacy among middle-school students in the Metro area. The partners in UA Metro Denver are the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Denver Zoo, the Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Public Schools, Aurora Public Schools, and Adams County School District 14. As the lead UA Metro Denver institution, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science will oversee the program and administer the grant in close collaboration with site coordinators at each partner location. 

Implementation of the UA Metro Denver program begins this fall in science classrooms in five schools, phasing into 18 more schools by the program's fourth year. Approximately 18,645 seventh-grade students from 23 schools, along with their teachers and families, will have participated in UA Metro Denver by the end of the 2013-2014 school year. The National Science Foundation grant also funds a comprehensive assessment of UA Metro Denver program goals, student learning, delivery of science content, and program outcomes. 

"Urban Advantage Metro Denver is a groundbreaking program for our community," said George Sparks, president and CEO of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. "To form a working partnership between the scientific organizations in the Scientific & Cultural Facilities District and local school districts is a breakthrough idea. We are excited that the National Science Foundation recognized the great potential of this innovative program to positively impact STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education for participating students."

How Urban Advantage Metro Denver Works

UA Metro Denver will provide students, schools, teachers, and families with resources and opportunities to do, think, and explore like scientists-both in and out of the classroom. The program addresses two challenges in STEM education identified by the National Science Foundation: ensuring that all students have the opportunity to learn significant STEM content, and enhancing the ability of teachers to provide quality STEM education.

In the UA Metro Denver program, students will determine a topic of interest with their teacher; conduct a long-term, independent science investigation project; document the process in a dedicated science notebook; and present their findings. UA Metro Denver will provide teacher professional development opportunities to give teachers the skills, knowledge, and confidence to teach STEM content in a rapidly changing world. The program also taps into the traditionally underutilized resources and STEM-related expertise of science-based cultural institutions who share the formal education system's commitment to improved science literacy.  

"Research has shown that a deep understanding of science is grounded in doing science. Not only do students need to understand scientific content, but they must also understand the scientific investigation process, and be inspired by actively participating in that process. By conducting their own long-term science investigations, UA Metro Denver will give students a chance to learn science in a manner that is not currently available to them," said Polly Andrews, director of youth and teacher programs at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

The approach to science education in the UA Metro Denver program is designed to be comprehensive, involving resources both in and out of the classroom. It contains six components:

  • Teacher professional development programs that engage teachers in inquiry-based, hands-on science investigations so they can transfer that knowledge and direct experience to their students.
  • Classroom materials and resources for students and teachers, including a scientific materials kit, a small allowance for teachers to purchase supplies for student investigations, and an online web portal with sample science notebooks and sample student investigations.
  • Free access and transportation to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Denver Zoo, and the Denver Botanic Gardens during the school year so students can research topics and gather resources for their scientific investigations. Each institution will provide "Student Help" representatives to answer questions and assist with projects.
  • Outreach to families so they can support science learning in their children. Families will receive vouchers for free admission to the cultural institutions, invitations to family science events at the schools and institutions, and bilingual communication materials as needed.
  • Capacity-building and sustainability of the UA Metro Denver program, including developing "lead" teachers who can mentor other teachers participating in UA Metro Denver, and selecting demonstration schools to model the UA Metro Denver program.
  • Comprehensive evaluation to assess the UA Metro Denver program and student achievement.


UA Metro Denver is modeled on a program first launched in New York City in 2004. The six UA Metro Denver partners have been working together through a planning grant since fall 2007 to adapt the New York model to the unique needs of the Denver metro area and raise funds to support its implementation. The evaluation process will provide essential data about the program's effectiveness so it can be improved upon as it is implemented in other cities, and expanded to include more Denver-area school districts and science-based cultural institutions.


Additional Media Contacts:

Will Jones
Denver Botanic Gardens
Public Relations Manager
[email protected]

Tiffany Barnhart
Denver Zoo
Director of Communications
[email protected]

Kristy Armstrong
Denver Public Schools 
Deputy Director of Communications
[email protected]

Paula Hans
Aurora Public Schools
News Media Specialist
[email protected]

John Albright
Adams 14
Director of Communications
[email protected]

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