The project will develop and research an after-school program designed to engage rural, Latinx youth in design thinking and math through making. Making is a learner-centered environment where participants design, create, and develop projects. Latinx individuals are underrepresented in the STEM workforce. The project will engage Latinx youth during the critical middle school years when young people make choices that affect their futures. The project will work with community members, after school staff, and youth as co-designers to develop and pilot the complete after school program. The program will involve Latinx youth who live in the agricultural regions of the Southwest United States with the goal of developing agency and positive identity, as makers, mathematical doers and users, and active community members. They will engage in developmentally appropriate mathematics, such as the volume and surface area of geometric shapes, within the context of informal learning projects. The program will comprise four semester-long after school projects, involving participants for 2-4 hours each week, during which time youth will design and create objects to address typical community challenges. Each project will incorporate smaller modules to enable youth with different attendance needs to participate. Real community problems (e.g., drought) and solution paths (e.g., water catchment system) will motivate the making and the mathematics. The program, co-designed in partnership with the Cesar Chavez Foundation, promises to reach 100,000 youth over the next decade. Because the program can serve as a model for others with similar goals, this reach has the potential to be expanded in many other communities.
Project research will address a gap in the current literature on mathematics, making, and community membership. The project connects community mathematics—the rich mathematical knowledge and practices drawn from communities—to educational making to both enrich understanding of school mathematics and aid in developing students’ positive mathematical and cultural identities. The project will also result in a model of professional development that can be used and studied by after school programs and researchers, contributing to the limited body of knowledge of professional development on STEM making for after school facilitators. The research design for this project will follow a mixed methods approach where quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis will occur simultaneously. Results of both strands will be brought together at the interpretation and reporting level to compare and bring out the convergence, divergence, or complementarity of findings. The research will take place in two stages (co-design and pilot) over 3 years, with an additional half year for developing communications of the findings. Research will address the following questions: (1) What are the key features of projects for integrating community mathematics, school mathematics understanding, and design/making? (2) How do facilitators support the youth in engaging in program activities? (3) What math content and practices do youth learn through participation in program activities? and (4) How do youth’s agency and identity as makers, mathematics doers and users, and community members change with participation in the program? Program research and resources will be disseminated nationally through the Cesar Chavez Foundation and by sharing project research and resources through publications and conference presentations reaching researchers, educators, and program developers.
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