Collaborative Research: Strategies: Building a Learning Ecology to Increase STEM Participation Among Middle School Girls

Project: Research project

Project Details


Overview Responding to the guiding research question related to partnerships with communities: In what roles and in what ways do parents, mentors, caregivers, and other community members motivate students to become aware of, interested in, and prepared for STEM careers?, we are proposing an ITEST Strategies project focused on increasing the STEM participation of middle-school aged girls across various out-of-school program providers across a midsize racially and socioeconomically diverse community. We seek support to build upon our collective resulting findings, social practices, and tools to work in collaboration with a local community of (OST providers, parents, and educators) to make it easier for families to encourage girls to participate in STEM activities and overcome logistical barriers. We seek to support the existing efforts, of which we are already a partner, to build a healthy STEM OST learning ecology for middle grades youth focused on developing students computational making interests, identities and skill sets by adding an intentional body of work that directly focuses on the problem of engaging girls in STEM OST activities at the community level by co-developing and leading two two-year working groups charged with a) expanding the Digital Divas offerings in partnership with local OST providers to ensure available Divas branded STEAM OST learning opportunities throughout girls’ middle grades years and b) developing the sociotechnical system needed to support parents of middle grades girls in curating their daughters STEAM journey. An intended outcome of this work is stronger social connections among program mentors, parents, and girls that will need to power the resulting sociotechnical systems designed to enable social information sharing, student showcasing and encouragement that are often a hallmark of OST middle grade sporting communities of which many Evanston families participate in. Specifically, we propose two main research and design activities, as described below. ● BUILDING THE “Powered by Divas” STEM LEARNING ECOSYSTEM: To build the learning ecosystem, we propose to a) establish and Lead the Evanston Digital Divas STEM Collective charged with developing three 50 hour OST STEAM “Powered by Divas” Learning Pathways and producing localized best practices for use by all OST providers; b)Develop and nurture a Divas Parenting Association charged with working with parents and OST providers to design the social practices, tools and protocols to support the community of caring adults (adult family members, teachers, and mentors) in curating and supporting the middle school age girls in their lives in participating in OST STEAM activities throughout their middle grades years; c) establish a citywide Divas Club that brings together girls participating in Powered by Divas programming for connection, showcasing, field trips, and identity workshops led by “In the Field” experts in OST; and d) build tools, data visualizations, and social practices to build shared understandings and to foster coordination. ● STUDYING THE “Powered by Divas” ECOSYSTEM: We will also conduct research to address the guiding question. Formative research will involve creating indicators to help stakeholders understand how girls are participating in programs across spaces and over time. Such inquiry can inform conversations among providers who are working to create engaging programs and to encourage continued participation. To understand the design and effectiveness of the learning ecosystem, we propose to follow one Divas 5th grade
Effective start/end date6/1/195/31/22


  • National Science Foundation (DRL-1850543)


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