The Science Museum of Minnesota (SMM) will collaborate with four community organizations serving Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) audiences to research and develop a novel outdoor makerspace that engages families in STEM learning. A makerspace is a place where people work together on creative, interest driven projects. In working with BIPOC families, the project addresses three forms of historical (and present day) exclusion of community participants, including participation in the design of informal learning experiences, participation in such activities, and overall engagement in STEM. The project aims to develop activities that foster STEM learning using natural materials in an outdoor makerspace, informed through robust collaboration with local communities. This project will result in an outdoor makerspace at SMM that will include 3-4 settings (approximately 2500 square feet total) that house and support multiple making activities in an outdoor context. The proposed work will contribute to advancing knowledge through exploring how BIPOC families define learning in makerspaces and how younger children can be fully engaged in family learning. The project will share the inclusive design and community collaboration practices developed through this work with other museums, maker educators, and other community organizations that can develop or expand their own outdoor makerspaces in ways that will respect and reflect BIPOC families’ perspectives.
BIPOC families will join museum staff as contributors in the development and iteration of an outdoor makerspace and collaborators in the development of generalized design principles and dissemination of the research. Visitor-captured video of engagement in the outdoor makerspace, surveys, and memos from design meetings with community partners serve as the foundation for the process of aligning design and development of outdoor informal science education spaces with community needs and values. All research activities will be guided by a culturally responsive research framework and use strategies to ensure the multicultural validity such as video meaning-making with family research participants and member-checking instruments, data analyses, and findings with Design Partners. Project research will address three questions: (1) What are the characteristics of family learning in an outdoor nature-situated makerspace, including how BIPOC families identify and describe STEM learning and how outdoor spaces can be built to support BIPOC families’ perspectives? (2) How can the space be built to support multi-age families to engaged in making, including a focus on what design elements support preschool learner’s engagement and sustained participation by other family members? and (3) How do the design principles for making with widely available materials translate from indoor to outdoor spaces and materials? Research findings, design principles and community engagement guides will be widely disseminated to researchers, designers, program developers, informal science institutions and community organizations.
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