STAR Legacy Cycle

Developed by researchers at the Vanderbilt-Northwestern-Harvard-MIT Engineering Research Center (VaNTH ERC), the STAR Legacy Cycle is an inquiry cycle that organizes educational resources and lessons in extended inquiry projects to engage learners in activities that imitate the way scientists approach and solve problems. A challenge with a set of specific goals and deliverables drives learning. Through active, collaborative achievement of those goals, learners acquire knowledge and skills, practice tasks that are real, and adopt the practices of discipline experts (i.e., cognitive apprenticeship).

Within each challenge of a Legacy Cycle there are six stages, or categories of activities, through which learners progress. The approach is non-linear, allowing learners to look ahead to see what's next, or loop back to review information or revise work based on new understanding.

Stages of Legacy Cycle

Why the Legacy Cycle? IT IS REALISTIC!

  • Mimics the way in which geoscientists work on research projects
  • Non-linear, allowing learners to look ahead to see what's next, or loop back to review information or revise work based on new understanding
  • Learning is collaborative, technology-enabled and, in this case, facilitated by a team of instructors
  • Provides structure to keep learners on track
  • Encourages college-readiness skills (i.e., time-management, note-taking, research, collaboration, and communication)
  • Supports NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs)
  • Promotes peer-peer mentoring interactions

Stages of Legacy Cycle

  • Challenge Scenario
  • Generate Ideas
  • Multiple Perspectives
  • Research and Revise
  • Test Your Mettle (Formative Assessment)
  • Go Public (Summative Assessment)


For the GeoFORCE Texas 12th Grade Summer Academy, we have created two primary Challenges. In addition, instructors may also use challenges developed for Water Exploration.

Challenge A: Human Impact and Engineered Solutions

Challenge B:Over Earth's vast history, gradual and catastrophic changes have both produced change

TWDB Water Exploration Challenges

Water Exploration, a Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) resource for teaching about water in Texas, was the inspiration for GeoFORCE Texas 12th Grade Summer Academy. Water Exploration has 9 separate Legacy Cycle challenges organized under three themes. Three are relevant to the Central Texas summer program.

Water-Earth Dynamics: Know Your Watershed. Austin is located in the Colorado River watershed.

People Need Water: Boating and Swimming and Damming, Oh My.... The 862-mile (1,387-kilometers) long Colorado River flows southeast through the Texas Hill Country to the Gulf of Mexico at Matagorda Bay. The reservoirs along the Colorado River are important for flood control, water conservation and storage, and recreation.

Water-Earth Dynamics: Groundwater: Knowing What You've Got Before It's Gone. Groundwater is the largest source of available freshwater and an important resource for Central Texas. Groundwater and surface flow interact.