Urban Advantage Metro Denver


“I am so impressed by Urban Advantage: they have taken scientific discovery into our least affluent communities and engaged our most vulnerable students in love of learning through scientific exploration…Of particular note was the gender and racial diversity of the participants, which directly addresses the prevailing imbalances in STEM education and employment.”

– Gully Stanford, representing the Colorado Department of Higher Education

Program Type

Teacher Development/Training
Hands on/Project-Based
Informal /Out of School

Target Audience

All Students

English Language Learner

Low Socio-Economic Status

Teachers/Educational Leaders




Grades 6 - 8

 Accomplished link

Program Impact

UA Denver serves 3,400 students and 40 teachers from 24 schools annually. Findings from a comprehensive efficacy study show that the program creates a positive environment in which teachers can engage their students in STEM learning. UA Denver teachers devote 44% of class time to student-directed investigation experiences, compared to 19% for non-UA teachers—an increase of 25%. UA Denver students are significantly more likely than their non-UA peers to report an interest in pursuing science-related activities outside of school, demonstrating the program’s positive impact on student interest, engagement, and persistence in science.


Program Overview

Urban Advantage Metro Denver (UA Denver) improves science literacy and reduces achievement gaps among middle school students by immersing them in authentic science investigations; connecting them with STEM professionals; building critical thinking and process skills; and fostering positive attitudes toward STEM fields.

In addition to multifaceted, hands-on educational opportunities for students both in and outside the classroom, UA Denver maximizes its impact by involving teachers and families—students’ support system. 

UA Denver comprises multiple integrated experiences throughout the academic year:

  • Professional development sessions throughout the year equip teachers with strategies to connect inquiry-based science teaching methods with district curricula, Colorado Academic Standards, and Next Generation Science Standards
  • Students become invested in their own learning through facilitated activities and open-ended, student-driven scientific investigations. Students visit the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Denver Zoo, and Denver Botanic Gardens on field trips, and receive unlimited free passes to visit with their families on their own time.
  • Family events at the partner cultural institutions and at schools inform families and build confidence in supporting their child’s education

Free access to partner institutions (via field trips, bus allowances, admission passes, and online access to scientists) encourages participants to use the institutions as learning resources

How To Get Involved

Support for UA Denver is welcome at any level. We seek leadership support of $50,000–$100,000 annually, while contributions of $10,000–$15,000 can underwrite program participation for seventh grade students and teachers from one middle school.

In addition, an annual culminating event—the Science Celebration—calls upon local STEM professionals to volunteer as Science Mentors. Science Mentors interact one-on-one with students to learn about the students’ science investigations, share their own journeys into science careers, and encourage the students to continue on their academic and career pathways into STEM fields. 

Funders and Partners

UA Denver is a partnership among three major science-based cultural institutions—Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Denver Zoo, and Denver Botanic Gardens—and two of Colorado’s largest and most diverse public school districts—Denver Public Schools and Aurora Public Schools. The National Science Foundation has supported this work with a five-year grant awarded in 2010 designed to study the efficacy of an informal-formal education collaboration to enhance teachers’ effectiveness in providing STEM education and assure all students the opportunity to learn STEM content and 21st century skills.


Eric Godoy, Partnership Programs Coordinator


Visit 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.