NURTURES (Networking Urban Resources with Teachers and University to enRich Early Childhood Science) is a five-year, Math and Science Partnership grant funded by the National Science Foundation. NURTURES focuses on integrating math, science and literacy education for preschool through third grade (PK-3) and connects teachers, parents and community partners to create an integrated and complementary system for science education. The grant is structured around a scale-up design in which we increase our recruitment of teachers, students and their families each year.

During the planning phase of the grant, University of Toledo (UT) science, engineering, and education faculty will work in partnership with selected PK-3 teachers to develop and pilot lessons, family activities, and community events. These selected teachers in conjunction with UT faculty will deliver the developed content to larger groups of PK-3 teachers during the Summer Institutes held in later years. In the summer of 2013, 40 teacher and administration participants from Toledo Public Schools and area preschools will be admitted to the Summer Institute. The Summer Institutes in 2014, 2015, and 2016 will admit 150 participants each.

In an effort to engage parents and their children in science, community events will be held throughout the academic year. These events will not only be promoted to classrooms of participating teachers, but will be open to the general public. We estimate that over the course of the 5-year project, 495 PK-3 teachers and administrators from 350 classrooms and community-based early education programs will receive science education professional development. Through the implementation of our family activities and community science events, we will offer family science learning opportunities to approximately 10,000 families in the greater Toledo area.


The goal of NURTURES is to transform the way in which PK-3 science is taught through the development and implementation of a complementary science education learning model that combines inquiry and learning, formal and informal education, teachers and parents, schools and the community, in a comprehensive effort to improve science subject interest and sustained science achievement (Harvard Family Research Project, 2008).

In order for NURTURES to achieve this goal, there are ten project outcomes on which we will focus on:

1. Increased science achievement through integration of science, reading, and mathematics
2. Increased student curiosity and sustained interest in science
3. Increased parent involvement in in-school and out-of-school educational activities
4. Improved teacher-parent relationships
5. A replicable effective complementary science education model for grades PK-3
6. Increased parent awareness and use of community educational resources in science
7. Increased PK-3 teachers' science content knowledge and understanding of science standards
8. Improved preschool and elementary teachers' pedagogy for teaching science
9. Improved state, district and school policies that support PK-3 inquiry-based science instruction
10. Improved state, district and school policies that provide support and resources for PK-3 family involvement in integrated science

Complementary Learning Model

In-school/out-of-school, formal/informal education should be seen as a system of learning opportunities coherently aligned and interwoven. The framework of complementary learning aligns educational resources to provide comprehensive programming that addresses the individual learning needs of all children and emphasizes family engagement in a child's education (Harvard Family Research Project, 2008). Essential components of complementary learning include effective schools, community-based and cultural institutions, colleges and universities, early childhood programs, and informal educational organizations like museums, zoos, parks, and educational television programs.

Rather than each entity operating discretely, a complementary learning model allows these various educational experiences to work in tandem as components of a larger process that, in this case, creates a system for early childhood science education in Toledo and the surrounding area.

Harvard Family Research Project (2008). What is complementary learning? Retrieved April 10, 2009 from http://www.hfrp.org/complementary-learning/overview .

Principal Investigator

Charlene M. Czerniak, Distinguished University Professor, Science Education  Bio
charlene.czerniak@utoledo.edu, 419-530-2094

Co-Principal Investigators

Scott Molitor, Associate Professor, Bioengineering  Bio
scott.molitor@utoledo.edu, 419-530-8168 

Joan Kaderavek, Distinguished University Professor, Early Childhood, Physical, and Special Education  Bio
joan.kaderavek@utoledo.edu, 419-530-2505

Bob Mendenhall, Curriculum Director, Toledo Public School District