Outdoor Investigations in the STEM Classroom
Michael Billington
Allison Gurney, a MPS teacher participating in OISC, is joined by her 2nd and 6th grade daughters as they learn more about raptors with a visit from Maxime and Mike Billington, Program Manager of OISC

Allison Gurney, a MPS teacher participating in OISC, is joined by her 2nd and 6th grade daughters as they learn more about raptors with a visit from Maxime and Mike Billington, Program Manager of OISC


Outdoor Investigations in the STEM Classroom (OISC) is a professional development program for teachers in grades 6–12. Funded by a $315,000 grant from the Cargill Foundation, OISC is a collaboration between The Raptor Center and University of Minnesota Extension aimed at bringing a STEM-based curriculum, Raptor Lab, into classrooms in underserved communities in Minneapolis, its northern and western suburbs, and St. Paul. OISC is a two-year grant that will reach 40 teachers and an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 students. 

Raptor Lab engages students directly in the process of scientific investigation using real-world scenarios, interactive role-play, and technology. It promotes higher-level thinking through evidence gathering as well as data analysis and interpretation, and it fosters skills development in critical thinking and collaboration. Development of this successful curriculum was funded by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. 

Outdoor Investigator, a learning module within Raptor Lab, was developed in partnership with the University of Minnesota Extension and is based on Driven to Discover, a curriculum funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Professional development workshops were integral to the NSF grant and will be the model for OISC. 

OISC will provide teachers with all the curriculum materials needed to implement Raptor Lab and will directly support teachers in its implementation. OISC will help teachers improve student persistence in STEM, as it provides equitable access to STEM programming for low-income students. Teachers will be able to provide their students with positive role models of people working in STEM, particularly women in science and leadership positions, and expose students to a variety of STEM careers and highlight higher education. 

Raptor Lab is a free curriculum available online at raptorlab. umn.edu. If you are interested in participating in OISC and are a teacher in Minneapolis, its western and northern suburbs, or in St. Paul, contact Lisa Curtis at [email protected] edu for more information about the 2021–22 school year.