Education and Public Engagement Group

Finding the Broader Impacts of Science at Rutgers University


About Us Resources for Educatiors Resources for Researchers Resources for K-12

We help researchers communicate their research beyond their colleagues and academic peers to broader communities.

Our work focuses on sharing the story of how science is done

We strive to

  • Highlight science skills and practices
  • Facilitate the exploration of scientific data, and
  • Help make meaning from scientific information.

We facilitate partnerships for Rutgers STEM faculty to share their science broadly.


…. To facilitate the development of social, cultural, and educational impact from the research investments of Rutgers researchers. We are focused on building Rutgers researcher’s capacity to engage in meaningful broader impact activities.


In 1994, our founding Director, Dr. Frederick Grassle and Associate Director Michael De Luca at the Institute of Marine & Coastal Sciences (IMCS) established an education and outreach program to connect ocean scientists with New Jersey educators. Since then, the IMCS education team has worked with Rutgers University scientists, local school districts, community groups, and other educational and non-profit partners to promote science literacy through quality science education programs. By combining cutting edge research with effective education practices, we inspire students, educators, and the science-interested public in exploration, discovery, and stewardship.

Over the past twenty years, our team has designed and implemented a variety of quality training experiences for scientists and educators. In these programs both through the Department of Marine Science and through our association with the Department of 4-H Youth Development- Cooperative Extension, we have provided support and training for scientists on how to effectively communicate and teach their science to a variety of audiences. We have also engaged educators in compelling professional development programs that provide them with new content knowledge in the context of real-world scientific practices. As a result, over 6,000 elementary, middle, and high school students have been exposed to Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) research through our on-campus programs and “scientist in the classroom” programs. Countless more have benefited from the innovative, hands-on laboratory activities and other educational resources we have developed over the years.

Thanks to support from both federal, foundation, and industry sources, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), AT&T, and the Geraldine R Dodge Foundation, our team has collaborated with hundreds of K-16 teachers, informal educators, community leaders, and Rutgers researchers to create and deliver innovative science education programs. Our programs focus on developing creative activities that integrate science concepts and the STEM resources at Rutgers University. We focus on bringing real world examples and data into a variety of educational settings including classrooms and informal learning environments.

Projects & Resources for Educators

  • Development of educational and science communication resources We develop educational resources for formal K-16 and informal learning environments. We utilize our extensive network of collaborators to develop effective teaching materials including data visualizations, videos, lesson plans, demonstrations, and interactive programs that focus on cutting edge scientific information. We also apply storytelling techniques to the materials to humanize science and make it more accessible to broader audiences.  Our education and outreach team has twenty years of experience incorporating current science and authentic data into educational activities. We have developed professional development and resource materials that offer guidance and explore how learners use data to make meaning and how educators can construct critical pathways that increase critical thinking and data literacy of their learners. We focus on developing and sharing techniques that help educators integrate data into their teaching; increase data literacy skills in learners by using data, tools, and visualizations.
  • Programs designed to improve STEM learning. We develop and implement a suite of informal STEM programs and activities at Rutgers University, designed to increase public interest in science. We also offer customized educational programs co-designed and led by Rutgers faculty. Our programs focus on engaging students in the process and nature of science through effective professional development and partnership with K-12 educators and administrators.
  • Assess the Impact of Education through Evaluation: We offer connections to experts who can help assess audience needs through Front End evaluation, collect data to improve program design and implementation through Formative evaluation, and collect feedback on usability on software and data visualization tools through Contextual Inquiry methods. We work with a wide range of external collaborators/experts to conduct Summative evaluation and impact assessments. Our team supports other evaluation services including needs assessment and formative evaluation.

Our Projects:

Tools of Science - The Tools of Science is a series of educational videos and hands on lessons designed to help students explore the nature and process of science.  These short videos are designed to introduce the science and engineering practices from the point of view of practicing scientists. They help illustrate the non-linear, cyclical nature of the scientific process and the creative vision and skills needed to conduct cutting-edge, impactful scientific research.  These videos and associated materials have been produced to support the implementation of the Science Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The long-term aim of this project is to produce supporting material (lesson plans, discussion prompts, and demonstrations) to complement each of the eight NGSS practices.

Polar Interdisciplinary Coordinated Education (Polar ICE) - A program designed to connect scientists, educators, and students using data and research from the Arctic and Antarctic regions.  The project is designed to

  • Connect polar scientists with broader audiences and learn the art of telling science stories.
  • Virtually connect 6th-12th grade students to polar research.Middle and high school educators connect their students with polar research and scientists. Educators develop data activities through the EARTH workshop, participate in focused teaching on the  process of science with the Sci-I Project and Student Polar Research Symposium
  • Share our lessons learned. We are documenting through evaluation the evidence of student engagement in Polar ICE data-focused classroom activities.

ENIGMA  - The Evolution of Nanomachines in Geospheres and Microbial Ancestors or ENIGMA project supports interactive K-8 Family Science Nights  and after school science club programs for youth grades 4-8.  This project is part of a broader approach by Rutgers scientists to engage the community in science learning. The events were coordinated and co-sponsored by the Department of 4-H Youth Development, Rutgers Cooperative Extension and funded with support from NASA and a grant from AT&T.

Ocean Data Labs - The OOI Ocean Data Lab Project is developing, testing, refining, and disseminating easy to use, interactive Data Explorations and Data Lab Notebooks that will allow undergraduates to use authentic data in accessible ways while being easy for professors to integrate into their teaching.

Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) Palmer Station - To stimulate and increase the publics' knowledge and excitement surrounding the science along the western Antarctic peninsula (WAP), Palmer LTER actively engages in educational opportunities with a wide variety of partners including informal science centers, universities, science museums, aquariums, nonprofit organizations, corporations, broadcast media, community and government leaders.  

In Search of Earth’s Secrets –  Funded by the National Science Foundation, this project uses the JOIDES Resolution and her science to intrigue, engage, and inspire informal science audiences across the nation. The project uses well-designed and facilitated opportunities at museums and libraries in carefully selected locations will provide an effective mechanism to increase STEM learning access among underserved minorities, rural populations and girls.

Rutgers Raritan River Consortium (R3C) – The Raritan River has a rich history, which includes strong ties to Rutgers University. However, for Rutgers students the Raritan River has in the past been perceived as a problem, a physical barrier separating campuses experienced primarily through the windows of a bus. The R3C proposes to transform the Raritan Basin into an academic solution, an interactive field laboratory that enhances the student experience by linking science, engineering, and humanities programs through interdisciplinary classes, projects and activities that take place not only on the banks of but actually on and in the Old Raritan and its tributaries.

Coastal Climate Risk & Resilience (C2R2) Initiative – C2R2 seeks to prepare the workforce that will advance integrated, science-informed strategies to create resilient coastal communities. With initial support from the National Science Foundation and hosted at the Rutgers’ Institute of Earth, Oceans and Atmospheric Sciences, C2R2 is a collaborative effort of schools across the University.

Projects that Use Real Data

  • COOL Classroom (2001-2012): The COOL Classroom was one of the first online resources that focused on incorporating real time data streams from the evolving ocean observing system, such as the Coastal Ocean Observation Laboratory (COOLroom) into inquiry based lessons.
  • Antarctica Melting: A Story in 4 Acts (2011): Developed with our collaborator, Ari Daniel, this resource tells the story of climate change in Antarctica. The short video slide shows are paired with lessons plans designed to introduce climate change research to middle and high school students.
  • COSEE NOW Databank of Data Focused Lessons: We have developed dozens of data rich lessons with our scientist collaborators, which introduce real scientific data to students.
  • Ocean Data Labs: The OOI Ocean Data Lab Project with funding from NSF, is developing, testing, refining, and disseminating easy to use, interactive Data Explorations and Data Lab Notebooks that will allow undergraduates to use authentic data in accessible ways while being easy for professors to integrate into their teaching.
  • What the Catch?: The inclusion of problem-based and inquiry instruction, i.e., case studies, into the classroom have been shown to enhance intrinsic motivation while also increasing scientific literacy and collaboration and problem solving skills. Moreover, studies indicate that the use of case studies enhances student ability to connect multiple content areas and understand multiple perspectives around an issue. “What’s the Catch” is an example of a case study developed to share the research being done by members of the NSF funded “Adaptations of fish and fishing communities to rapid climate change”


Professional Development Programs for Educators

  • MARE (1994-2009): MARE was an interdisciplinary science program offering year-round opportunities, including events that immerse faculty, students and families from schools and out of school clubs in the study and celebration of the ocean. The MARE program, developed by the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley, enabled us to offer dynamic, inquiry-based science to teachers at more than 55 New Jersey elementary schools. These teachers then facilitated the exploration of the ocean with students and their families through a multi-disciplinary approach. The Geraldine R Dodge Foundation and the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve funded the program for 15 years.
  • Climate Change and the Atlantic Surf Clam Fishery (2011): The 4-H Department of Youth Development, the Department of Human Ecology, and the IMCS, partnered with Seawatch Incorporated, the New Jersey Sea Grant College Extension program, and members of the fishing industry to develop a comprehensive K-8 education program that exposed students to fisheries science and how it can be used in everyday life, including making decisions about the seafood we eat. This project was part of a NSF broader impact effort led by Dr. Bonnie McCay.
  • Project PARKA (2012-13): This project connected Kansas high school classrooms with researchers studying the synergistic effects of elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) and temperature on Antarctic krill. Students participated in research-specific science lessons, talked with the science team while they were down in Antarctica, engaged in the research mission through science and student blogs, and attended a Student Research Symposium, during which the students and scientists presented their research to one another. The NSF funded this project as part of a broader impact statement for research scientist Dr. Grace Saba.
  • Project Converge (2014): Students are working with research scientists to learn about interdisciplinary oceanographic research taking place at the West Antarctic Peninsula in January 2015. Both students and the public, through collaborations with the Liberty Science Center and Cornell Ornithology Lab, will follow the mission blog posts and interact with scientist through Live Video Broadcasts. Moreover, students from NJ and NY (grades 6-9) will gain a greater understanding of the research and scientists through classroom lessons and a Spring Research Symposium, where they will meet the scientists. The NSF funded this project as part of a broader impact statement for research scientist Dr. Josh Kohut.
  • Ross Sea - This project connected the research of Dr. Josh Kohut and his colleagues in the Ross Sea with middle school educators.  Students  virtually participated in the research and data analysis in collaboration with the project scientists.
  • ACLIPSE - Our team participated in the development of a collection of classroom ready lessons that use data to explore climate change.
  • Sequence 3-5 and 6-8 - Our team participated in the development of an ocean science curriculum sequence for grades 3-5 and 6-8 produced by the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley.

Resources for Researchers

The NSF employs two criteria in the merit review process of proposals: What is the intellectual merit of the proposed activity? What are the broader impacts of the proposed activity?  While most researchers know what is meant by intellectual merit, experience shows that many researchers do not have as clear an understanding of the meaning of broader impacts. We provides assistance to faculty wishing to design and implement appropriate strategies for increasing the broader impact of their research. We offer professional development opportunities for research scientists to improve their practice through training on building effective communication strategies and techniques, and broadening the reach of the science to non-expert audiences.

The Broader Impact Wizard

We have developed a smart software tool that can help scientists prepare their broader impact statement. The tool helps create a draft outline of a statement that includes an appropriate activity, budget, objective, and evaluation plan. The site also has case studies and practical information on how to implement broader impact projects post award.


arisWe are Co-PIs in the Center for Advancing Research Impacts in Society a national community of practice of broader impact professionals across universities, informal learning institutions, and professional societies.  The Center is funded by the National Science Foundation and supports the development of new resources to support community engagement in research.


Projects and Resources for Youth Grades K-12

  • 4-H Rutgerscience Saturdays (grades 5-8): A STEM program designed to connect middle school age young people to Rutgers University faculty and inspire them to become scientists and engineers. The program engages youth in hands on activities and demonstrations that highlight a wide variety of STEM disciplines.
  • STEM Summits: The summits are on campus events designed to engage students in service learning and/or citizen science projects. The Climate Change Teen Summit (grades 8-12) engages students to learn about climate change science and to develop community science projects that apply their knowledge of climate change issues in their local communities. Sponsored by State Farm, the Science of Soil Summit  introduces middle school students to the science behind healthy soil. The program includes a soil assessment done in the students’ communities and reported using a citizen science app.
  • STEM Ambassador program: <>A STEM program for high achieving young people (grades 9-12) who are underserved and underrepresented in STEM fields. The program, which is in its 11th year of operation, has shown positive shifts in young peoples’ perception of their own participation in science. Pre and post-test results show youth are more interested in working with scientists to solve problems and learning about new science discoveries. The program also increased participants’ perception of science as exciting and their confidence in their ability to do and learn science. See 2019 article on the program.
  • Teen Café Program: Teen Science Café out-of-school programs for high school students (grades 9-12) are a fun way for teens to explore the big advances in science and technology affecting their lives. Teens and STEM experts engage in lively conversations and activities to explore a topic deeply.
  • Ocean Science Conference (grades 3-12): Known as Ocean Days, these on-campus science fairs focus on science questioning, provide a platform for students and scientists to interact one on one, and expose students to topics in marine science.