Families play a vital role in supporting children’s informal science learning. Yet multiple studies have shown that Latinx families, particularly in neighborhoods with a high poverty rate, face many barriers to accessing informal science experiences and environments. Telenovelas, a type of television serial drama watched by Spanish-speaking audiences around the world, may provide an entryway to reaching these families. Prior research has shown that telenovelas can be an effective means of changing adults’ behavior, with potential cascading impacts on children. Education Development Center, Literacy Partners, and Univision will use a culturally responsive approach to broaden participation of Latinx families in informal science learning using La Fuerza de Creer, a popular Spanish-language telenovela that reaches 7 million U.S. viewers. The five-episode telenovela series will model positive informal science interactions between caregivers and their children and provide positive role models of Latinx scientists. The project team will then use the telenovela as the foundation for a five-session workshop series for caregivers to further explore how to engage in these informal science learning opportunities with their children. The La Fuerza-STEM project will build on families’ strengths and interests and tap their power—la fuerza—to engage children in exploring science. This research will examine the relationship between the telenovela/workshops and caregivers’ practices and attitudes towards science. La Fuerza-STEM seeks to expand informal science learning using a culturally grounded strategy to engage an under-served population that is historically under-represented in STEM.
The project will use an iterative research and design process that is guided by the input of both parent and scientific advisory boards. Front-end formative research with approximately 30 Latinx caregivers from under-resourced communities will explore their informal science practices. These experiences will then inform script development for the telenovela. A pre-post comparison group study with 200 caregivers will investigate how caregivers’ attitudes toward science might change as a result of viewing the telenovela. The project will then build a 5-session workshop series around the telenovela and these research findings. Finally, 300 caregivers will participate in a randomized controlled trial to examine the efficacy of the La Fuerza-STEM workshops on changing caregivers’ informal science attitudes and practices. Throughout, the project will address the overarching research question, How can a culturally relevant telenovela be used to improve Latinx caregivers’ science self-efficacy, career awareness, and informal science practices? Project findings and products will be publicly disseminated through publications, conference presentations, and local partner organizations, with an eye toward open access and data sharing. The project will generate knowledge about the effectiveness of embedding informal science content in a culturally-grounded medium—the telenovela—in improving caregivers’ confidence and competence to engage in informal science learning experiences with their children. With an anticipated audience of 7 million, the potential impact of the telenovela on caregivers’ informal science attitudes and practices is enormous. By implementing workshops with local organizations, the project aims to be self-sustaining, building the capacity of community partners to provide families with services targeting informal science knowledge and skills long after the grant has ended.
This Innovations in Development project is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program.
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