An ecosystems model of learning suggests there are critical partners within and across a community that support learning across the lifespan. These school-community partnerships, developed with shared accountability and goals, are essential to rural students given the lack of economic and geographic access to such services. Youth in rural areas may have limited opportunities to engage with professionals. The team proposes to overcome this gap by capitalizing on the wide-spread interest in archaeology to teach critical thinking using STEM concepts and testing components of a partnership program. This project will advance knowledge on multidisciplinary STEM education by iteratively developing and researching an after-school program in which youth engage in multidisciplinary inquiry in the context of archeology. Mentored by archaeologists, rural youth and citizen scientists will use concepts and tools drawn from biology, ecology, geospatial science, mathematics, physics, and data science to identify and answer questions related to the history of their local region. An outcome of this project will be a road map for moving from a feasibility project to a larger implementation project locally and an understanding of community partnerships engaging more broadly.
Researchers at SUNY Binghamton will conduct a mixed-methods research study that examines the ways in which participation in a multidisciplinary after-school archaeology program supports the development of STEM identities among rural youth in sixth through eighth grades. The research team will use content analysis to analyze field notes from observations, as well as transcripts from focus groups and interviews with the youth. They will use inferential statistics to explore changes in the youths' STEM identity using an identity survey, which will be administered to the youth before and after participation in the program. Additionally, the research team will conduct qualitative research that explores shifts in the afterschool program providers' perceptions about supporting middle school youth as STEM learners. The program providers are comprised of graduate and undergraduate archaeology students, citizen scientists, and professional archaeologists. The course modules developed for the after-school program will be disseminated through professional networks and organizations dedicated to archaeologists and informal educators, and empirical findings will be shared widely via peer-reviewed publications. This project is funded by the Advanced Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program. As part of its overall strategy to enhance learning in informal environments, the AISL program seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments. This includes providing multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences, advancing innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments, and developing understandings of deeper learning by participants.
This Pilots and Feasability Studies 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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