RAIN - Rural Activation and Innovation Network
Rural communities across the Nation are, in general, underserved in terms of the various forms of STEM education. Clearly, they are under-represented in the realm of contemporary STEM subjects often because they are geographically isolated and cannot travel to cities where there are Science and Museum Centers for informal education opportunities. As part of its overall strategy to enhance learning in informal environments, the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program funds innovative resources for use in a variety of settings. This award will, in a collaborative effort within the community, bring STEM activities to selected communities in Arizona. Among the initial activities, there will be a STEM festival highlighting aspects of the community and its assets in an effort to gather support and begin to give perspective on identity for an extended effort of longevity. Further, these communities will be networked to facilitate discussion and to enhance effectiveness.
This project will develop STEM activities and STEM learning within a selected community by giving the community and its residents identity and opportunities for youth development and career choices. The selected communities in Arizona represent a diverse group that includes Native Americans and Latinos. In collaboration with community residents, a designed plan will be established that satisfies the needs and opportunities that can be derived from the extant community assets whether it is mining, tourism, or government facilities. Evaluation efforts are set to determine what the key features and methodologies are that facilitate STEM knowledge acquisition for each rural community. This project represents seminal and foundational work in the area of rural informal STEM education. Researchers will explore the following questions: 1) understanding how rural communities currently perceive, access, and engage in informal science learning, and the extent to which they identify themselves and/or their community in relation to science; and 2) the extent to which relevant, place-based networks can increase public awareness of local STEM assets, resources, and opportunities, and foster a science-related identity at both the personal and community level. These data will be compared to data on other rural community projects in the AISL portfolio. The partners in this effort include the Arizona Science Center, community leaders from four rural regions in Arizona, Arizona State University, and the Center of Science and Industry.