Advancing Equitable Science Education: New Research Project Explores Culturally Responsive Curriculum Adaptation 


The National Science Foundation has awarded $1.7 million to Western Washington University for a 3-year project that aims to advance equitable science education in the elementary years. CREST: Culturally Responsive Elementary Science Teaching is a collaboration between faculty in Science, Math, and Technology Education (SMATE) at Western Washington University, 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 1700 students. 

Research conducted by the project team will examine how teachers leverage the ESS curriculum materials and customize instructional approaches to meet standards and the needs of diverse student populations. How teachers use and adapt curriculum materials has a significant impact on learning, and can have a considerable effect on curriculum-driven efforts to promote equity in education. Yet, most current studies provide only a snapshot of teachers' curriculum adaptation--often during their first-time implementing curriculum materials. Because research indicates teachers need at least two iterations with curriculum materials to use them purposefully and skillfully, a three-year study by the CREST project will contribute valuable knowledge about how teachers' capacity to make culturally responsive adaptations changes over time as they gain experience using curriculum materials.  

For more information about the project, please visit or contact the Investigators: Dr. Debi Hanuscin at and Dr. Josie Melton at