Developing the Processes and Potential to Engage Historically Underrepresented Communities in Public Participation in STEM Research Through Authentic and Impactful Collaboration
As part of its overall strategy to enhance learning in informal environments, the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program funds innovative research, approaches, and resources for use in a variety of settings. Using community-based participatory research, human-centered design, and developmental evaluation approaches, this project will co-create a national community science project, which is a form of Public Participation in STEM Research (PPSR) or citizen science. The project seeks to increase inclusion and equity in STEM, while building capacity in research and science through leadership and participation by both historically underrepresented communities and established academic institutions. Participants will record their levels of perceived stress and well-being in relation to their local soundscape. This project will help to connect participants, specifically youth and their families from communities underrepresented and underserved in STEM, with science and nature through learning that is authentic and relevant to their lives. With support of a mobile app, community science project participants explore and map soundscapes to identify areas of "excessive noise" as well as "noise refuges." Community-led dissemination of results will inform adoption of community science projects by other community-based organizations. The project is a collaboration involving fifteen community leaders, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Metro Atlanta Urban Farm in Atlanta, WorldBeat Center in San Diego, CLUES in St. Paul, MN, and Camp Compass in Allentown, PA. PPSR has exciting potential to engage broad audiences in STEM learning and research, particularly when projects are genuinely co-created by local communities, scientists, and educators. Using a community-based participatory research approach in the project fosters direct involvement from community members in integration of science practices and learning, from the development of the research questions, design of the study, to analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of results. Human-centered design is important as it is an established collaborative approach for addressing real-world problems facing human communities. In this project, human-centered design will include technology in the problem-solving phases of inspiration, ideation, and implementation. Developmental evaluation will provide on-going direct feedback to the project team over the project lifespan with respect to equity and inclusion in PPSR, an informal STEM learning environment. The project will further knowledge and understanding of soundscapes and noise pollution, enable use of mobile apps to map soundscapes in urban environments, and contribute to the relationship of noise to well-being.The project will produce conceptual frameworks and practical resources (toolkits) to guide future community-based PPSR efforts. Results from this project will advance knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors of PPSR practitioners regarding equity, diversity, and inclusion of underrepresented audiences in STEM. 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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