Literacy through Science

kids in desks


Science, Kindergarten, Nature‐based project work, Student achievement

District Partners

  • Dike-New Hartford
  • Emmetsburg
  • North Tama County

Project Duration

From 2015 to 2017

Background and Purpose

The current emphasis on literacy assessments in early childhood drove many kindergarten classrooms to do away with science experiments for children to focus solely on literacy instruction. This study used mixed methods to determine the effects of nature-based science projects in preschool and kindergarten classrooms on student achievement in literacy. 

This proposal reflected a unique opportunity to join a team dedicated to increasing nature-based scientific investigations for young children. The Lakeside Laboratory Regents’ Resource Center at Okoboji asked the Regents’ Center for Early Developmental Education (RCEDE) at UNI to examine the effects of their Young Investigators teacher professional development program. Young Investigators is an organization dedicated to facilitating early access to science inquiry through nature‐based project work. It uses a method of teaching in which in‐depth study of a particular topic is conducted by a child or a group of children. Activities engaged in during the project included drawing, writing, reading, recording observations, and interviewing experts.


  • Students in integrative STEM classrooms made larger gains and performed as well or better than students in traditional classrooms on literacy assessments, including tasks such as letter identification and hearing and recording sounds in words

Resulting Publications

Follow-On Grants


Mason K headshot
Kuhn, Mason

Assistant Professor, Curriculum & Instruction, University of Northern Iowa

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Meacham, Sohyun

Assistant Professor, Curriculum & Instruction, University of Northern Iowa

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Van Meeteren, Beth

Director, Regents' Center for Early Developmental Education, University of Northern Iowa

Vander Zanden Headshot
Vander Zanden, Sarah

Assistant Professor, Curriculum & Instruction, University of Northern Iowa