Michigan Science Teaching and Assessment Reform program (Mi-STAR)


“I have always hoped to be an engaging, hands-on, inquiry-based, best-practice science teacher, and I thought I was. But after piloting this unit, I’m really thinking differently about my teaching. The combination of a unit-challenge, three dimensional scientific instruction, truly inquiry lessons in a real-world problem-solving approach to learning has created learning in my students that I have never seen before in all my years of teaching.” - Mi-STAR Teacher

Program Type

Curriculum/Instructional Materials
Teacher Development/Training
Hands on/Project-Based

Target Audience

All Students

Teachers/Educational Leaders




Grades 6 - 8

 Accomplished link

Program Impact

Mi-STAR aims to make its curriculum available to every middle school in Michigan within the next five years and to expand its reach to middle schools in at least five additional states within the next ten years.  Over 100 teachers and 3,000 middle school students participated in the initial design and pilot testing of the curriculum; 500 additional teachers participated in Mi-STAR’s professional learning program during the same time period.  The six curriculum units released for the 2017-18 year are expected to be implemented by 300 teachers and have a positive impact on over 21,000 students in Michigan.


Program Overview

Mi-STAR, or the Michigan Science Teaching and Assessment Reform program, is developing a three-year-long middle school integrated science curriculum (including classroom-based assessments) and an associated professional learning program for teachers.

Mi-STAR is motivated by a vision for the future of STEM education in which science is taught and learned as an integrated body of knowledge that can be applied to address societal issues.  Mi-STAR is a partnership that includes scientists, engineers, curriculum developers, education researchers, middle-school teachers, and school administrators who are working collaboratively to improve STEM outcomes for students by connecting curriculum reform with enhanced professional preparation for teachers.   

Mi-STAR’s curriculum is aligned with the Michigan Science Standards, which are a customized version of the Next Generation Science Standards.  Mi-STAR uses real-world issues to stimulate students’ interest and provide a meaningful context for learning.  Mi-STAR students use the tools of science and engineering to develop new knowledge and craft innovative solutions to contemporary problems.  Mi-STAR’s professional learning program helps prepare middle school teachers to engage students in science and engineering practices while simultaneously emphasizing cross-cutting concepts and disciplinary core ideas.  Mi-STAR conducts ongoing research and evaluation to support continuous improvement and ensure that its products and programs are effective.

How To Get Involved

There are many options for involvement, including sponsorship for: (1) developing and pilot testing a Mi-STAR curriculum unit - $100k; (2) updating a Mi-STAR unit for 5 years - $50k, (3) training a Mi-STAR teacher leader who will prepare other teachers to implement the curriculum - $25k; (4) preparing a Mi-STAR classroom teacher to implement the curriculum - $15k.  Mi-STAR exists because of founding-level support provided by the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation.  Our goal is to provide the curriculum at no charge and we rely on philanthropic support to continually update the curriculum and provide required associated professional learning for teachers.

Funders and Partners

Major Funder
Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation


University Partners:
Michigan Technological University
Central Michigan University
Eastern Michigan University
Grand Valley State University
Saginaw Valley State University
Western Michigan University

School District Partners:
Adams Township Schools
Bangor Township Schools
Eaton Rapids Public Schools
Fenton Area Public Schools
Grand Rapids Public Schools
Grosse Pointe Public Schools (prospective)
Hancock Public Schools
Houghton Portage Township Schools
L'Anse Area Schools
Kalamazoo Public Schools
Midland Public Schools
Public Schools of Calumet, Laurium & Keweenaw
Rochester Community Schools
Saginaw Intermediate School District

Other Partners:
American Geosciences Institute (AGI)


Marianne Semones, Administrative Assistant

View website

Design Principles

The programs in this database clear a high bar. STEMworks reviewed each program against the Design Principles for Effective STEM Philanthropy.

  • Accomplished
  • Developing
  • Undeveloped

Overarching Principles

  • Need

    Identify and target a compelling and well-defined need.

  • Evaluation

    Use rigorous evaluation to continuously measure and inform progress towards the compelling need identified.

  • Sustainability

    Ensure work is sustainable.

  • Replication and Scalability

    Demonstrate replicability and scalability.

  • Partnerships

    Create high impact partnerships

  • Capacity

    Ensure organizational capacity to achieve goals.

STEM Principles

  • Challenging and Relevant Content

    Offer challenging and relevant STEM content for the target audience

  • STEM Practices

    Incorporate and encourage STEM practices.

  • Inspiration

    Inspire interest and engagement in STEM.

  • Under-Represented Groups

    Identify and address the needs of under-represented groups.