Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Noah D. Finkelstein

Second Advisor

Kathleen Hinko

Third Advisor

Steven Pollock

Fourth Advisor

Michael Dubson


In this thesis, we investigate an informal after-school science program. We examine two inquiry curricula used in this program; one more guided and the other more open. We have developed new methods to analyze middle school children's scientific notebooks, and we measure how the children exhibit agency, how the children communicate, and the mechanistic reasoning children use. We compare the two curricula and find that the children exhibit more agency in the open curriculum, write and draw more in the open curriculum, demonstrate a wide variety of scientific communication, and use more varied types of mechanistic reasoning in the open curriculum. These aspects can be linked to science identity, and we conclude that the more open curriculum supports the development of positive science identity.