Press Releases

Inclusive, Strong and Green — NSF Grant Will Support Implementing Systems Modeling Curriculum in TRIO Upward Bound Focused on Addressing Critical Local and Global Issues

October 29, 2018

The Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) and its partners, the Waters Foundation, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Pathlight Associates, and Rutgers University, as well as TRIO Upward Bound (UB) pilot sites from University of Massachusetts Boston, University of Kansas, Family Centered Education Agency in Chicago, and University of Georgia, are pleased to announce that they have been awarded a $1.2 million three-year NSF grant. The project is entitled — iStronG (Inclusive, Strong and Green): A student-centered systems thinking, place-based and technology driven curriculum.

“Inclusive, Strong and Green” are the words used at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ministers meeting in 2015 to describe their critical strategic goals. These goals echo the insight expressed in the Foreword to the landmark OECD PISA report, Green at 15, that “never before” has the need to increase STEM understandings in youth been so critical. The iStronG project proposes to develop, refine, implement, and iteratively test the effectiveness of an out-of-school, systems modeling technology-driven curriculum designed for low-income and first-generation early high school students who have traditionally been underrepresented in STEM fields.

The curriculum will provide students with the skills to think systemically through the introduction of key systems concepts and to develop proficiency in the use of systems modeling computer software. The curriculum also will include projects to help students develop their own models addressing place-based concerns and will facilitate community awareness of local and international environmental issues through use of the Climate Interactive role playing, simulation tools. This technology will allow students to gain a deeper understanding of systems thinking and to make better decisions through hands-on exploration while learning how to utilize the new systems modeling software. Following three cycles of implementation, testing and improvement, the Inclusive, Strong and Green Curriculum will be made available to the more than 1,000 UB TRIO projects nationwide.

A major goal of this grant is to contribute to research on the potential of a systems thinking, place-based curriculum in out-of-school TRIO college access programs, such as Upward Bound, to increase underrepresented students’ STEM interest, self-efficacy, and motivation to pursue STEM degrees/careers.

Institutional Contacts and Partners — Council for Opportunity in Education-Pell Institute: Margaret Cahalan (; Mika Yamashita (; Nicole Norfles (; Waters Foundation, Sheri Marlin (; University of Massachusetts Lowell, Juliette Rooney-Varga (; Pathlight Associates, Cheryl Rush Dix (; Rutgers University, Cindy Blitz (

Upward Bound Pilot Sites — University of Massachusetts Boston, Joan Becker (; University of Kansas, Ngondi A. Kamatuka (; University of Georgia, Sherontae Maxwell (; Family Centered Education Agency in Chicago, Jnathan McKenzie (