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Project Descriptions

Investigating the impact of youth's inductive exploration of local technologies featured in Indigenous stories on their engagement, self-efficacy, and persistence in STEM

October 1, 2022 - September 30, 2026

This project provides opportunities for Indigenous youth to transform and be transformed by opportunities for STEAM innovation and knowledge building. This project will create opportunities outside of the classroom to invest in youths’ engagement, and interest, and self-efficacy in STEAM by supporting explorations in community settings that value multiple languages and ways of knowing. Through this project, youth can engage in pressing community needs—such as climate change impacts, food and water security, chronic health crises, and out-migration— with community experts, elders, and knowledge holders. The project will expand the picture of what Informal STEAM learning and meaningful engagement in STEAM looks like in Pacific Island contexts. It will employ a collaborative research framework to investigate how Informal STEAM learning activities that foster intergenerational learning—particularly the exploration of traditional stories and the creation of prototypes, storytelling packages, and hands-on models that illustrate Indigenous STEAM practices—impact youths’ engagement and interest in STEAM and self-efficacy over time. By building the capacity of participants—particularly Pacific Islander youth—to become co-researchers, -evaluators and -designers, the project will cultivate spaces for participants to advocate for their interests, perspectives, and needs. This research within the Pacific region is important for fostering science literacy and broadening participation in STEAM fields since early interest in science is a potential indicator of future STEAM interest and career choices.

The goal of the project is to investigate how youth’s inductive exploration of local technologies featured in Indigenous stories impact their engagement and interest in STEAM, Informal STEAM learning, and future decision making that affect youth participation in STEAM pathways. The project will be implemented in Guam, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia (comprising the four states of Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei, and Yap) and will address the core research question: To what extent does youths’ participation in STEAM-based storytelling and story exploration lead to increases in youths’ engagement and interest in STEAM and self-efficacy over time? The project approaches story exploration as a cultural and metalinguistic process to investigate a story not solely as an artifact or a process, but as a doorway to investigations of history, Indigenous STEAM, and local innovation. Two cohorts of youth participants will engage in summer and spring out-of-school programs led by elders, partner organizations, and project staff through which youth investigate storytelling, design, research practice, and service learning. Each cohort will also create digital storytelling packages and/or model kits to share with audiences through participant-designed community-level and cross-region sharing events. The project is expected to reach 140 youth and 30 elders. To measure learning outcomes, the project builds upon extant tools to gauge Informal STEAM learning engagement. Lessons about the application of these tools will contribute to the Informal STEAM learning knowledge base—especially regarding underrepresented communities in STEAM. Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is the overarching theoretical and methodological framework for the project and will engage participants as co-researchers through multiple methods of observation, data gathering, and analysis. The project will also create community-driven research opportunities that advances the generation of knowledge on topics that are often left unexplored because: (1) Micronesians as underrepresented minorities are not usually at the table during research design; (2) non-Micronesian/Indigenous epistemologies are usually privileged throughout the research; and (3) there is a lack of trust when any outsider asks to look in, especially when racialized colonial histories still leave daily impacts. This project encourages all participants to consider and develop answers to this question: Stewards of whose knowledge? Research findings and educational materials and resources will be disseminated to researchers, program developers, informal science institutions, partner organizations, formal and informal educators, and communities.


Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 2215554
Funding Amount: $2,584,633.00


  • Emerson Odango
    Principal Investigator
    Pacific Resources for Education and Learning
  • REVISE logo
    Co-Principal Investigator
  • Discipline: Climate | Ecology, forestry, and agriculture | General STEM | Health and medicine
    Audience: Youth/Teen (up to 17) | Families | Seniors
    Environment Type: Public Programs | Afterschool Programs | Summer and Extended Camps
    Access and Inclusion: Ethnic/Racial | Indigenous and Tribal Communities | Pacific Islander Communities

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