RAPID: Advancing Museum-Community Conversations that Intersect STEM and Racial Justice
As part of its overall strategy to enhance learning in informal environments, the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (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. The goal of this RAPID project is to better understand how an informal science education organization and its STEM resources can partner with community groups and their expertise to support people's ability to understand, process, and work toward dismantling systemic racism. The project will draw from exhibition and programming resources that have been developed and refined over almost two decades of engagement with the topics of STEM, race, and racism in a science museum context. Examples of STEM programming include data and data visualization, how biology and environment shape behavior and perception, and the use of technology to communicate. This project will build on previously developed relationships in three regions to design and facilitate virtual STEM-informed activities and conversations about race in each regional site. These activities and training will support participants to better understand, process, and work toward dismantling systemic racism.
This RAPID project is timely given the Covid-19 pandemic and the increased awareness of the ongoing impact of systemic racism. The project will address the following questions:
- What kinds of virtual STEM-informed activities allow for community members to explore, understand, or act upon the impacts of systemic racism? What are key features of those activities, from the perspective of participants? What are promising changes that community members report as a result of these activities? How are science-based resources perceived, and how do participants perceive they are learning STEM?
- What supports allow the regional project group members and museum staff to collaborate successfully, and what obstacles slow that work down?
- How do local collaboratives define long-term success of their work, and how can they track their progress over time? The project team and the regional project group members bring a range of experience in community engagement, science education programming, and informal science learning research.
The project will develop this new knowledge for the informal science education field and other local stakeholders through qualitative and participatory research and virtual STEM-informed activities that are responsive to the changing needs of community members. The project will begin in August 2020 as the ability to understand the research questions requires immediate collection of data. Because of the essential nature of this type of research for the informal STEM learning field, the team plans to analyze data and start initial dissemination by the fall of 2020 with additional data collection, analysis, and dissemination continuing as the project progresses.
This 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.