This two-year project will analyze how adolescent girls develop as sustainable citizens as they take part in a college-based STEM summer program that offers hands-on workshops in sustainability science. As a Building Capacity in STEM Educational Research (BCSER) project, a key goal is to build the principal investigator's knowledge base and analytical expertise in STEM education research. This project aims to position the investigator to conduct longer-term research on broadening participation in sustainability science and ways to prepare the next generation of STEM educators.

Situated in the context of a Philadelphia-based partnership between Drexel University and the girls-only Eureka STEM program, the project has potential to broaden participation among underrepresented girls from low-income, minority communities and advance understanding of sustainable literacy among middle school girls. Moreover, by examining the structure and impact of continuous and intentional learning pathways through girls’ middle school years, the project can advance understanding of how informal learning environments support girls’ interest and confidence in STEM. In this way, the project offers a roadmap for how to foster effective informal education interventions to create more inclusive and diverse learning environments.

The research question driving this project is: Can STEM content that is focused on inquiry-based activities that build towards a community organized sustainability project offer a means to cultivate a sense of sustainable citizenship and environmental civic action? It uses ethnographic methods to identify and evaluate the informal STEM learning environment and to infer the contexts and frameworks in which girls develop their interest and confidence. During the two years, middle school girls will enroll in the Eureka STEM program for four weeks during the summer and one day every month during the academic year. The girls will be introduced to socially relevant real-world problems through multidisciplinary engineering and science hands-on active-learning workshops that can be iteratively solved using fundamental engineering and science methods and tools. Through a series of interactive augmented exercises, the girls will engage in sustainability exercises, facilitated by students and faculty from Drexel STEM departments. Drexel graduate and undergraduate students will receive training in STEM pedagogy and teaching strategies through coursework and participation in the Eureka program. The goal is to support girls’ creation of environmental civic action plans that engage the communities in which the girls live and that offer a means to operationalize their sustainability interests.

The project is supported through the EHR Core Research: Building Capacity in STEM Education Research (ECR: BCSER) competition that is designed to build individuals’ capacity to carry out high quality fundamental STEM education research in STEM learning and learning environments, broadening participation in STEM fields, and STEM workforce development.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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Drexel University
United States
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