This project, a collaboration of faculty at Pratt Institute and Oregon State University, will explore how people with low to no affinity for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) can be introduced to STEM ideas in ways that are appropriate for their cultural identity and designed to achieve reasonable outcomes that allow for continued STEM engagement. This project will study a new model, as a small scale exemplar of how science learning can be integrated into cultural events that attract audiences who do not identify themselves as interested in science or broader concepts associated with STEM. The model integrates science with art, music and play, producing live events, games, hands-on workshops, and interactive theater productions that are intended to inspire wonder and excitement. The basic principles are: to create unique opportunities for audiences to experience science in unorthodox ways, to connect with audiences at these events, and to help scientists engage a public they do not normally reach.
The goal of this project is to formally study and improve upon the practices that have been explored to date by carefully examining the implementation at two annual FIGMENT arts festivals in New York City and to determine outcomes based on three theoretical frameworks: the six strands of science engagement proposed by the National Research Council, the concept of follow-up activity, and subsequent reinforcing experiences. Initial evaluation results indicate the model is effective in advancing informal STEM learning and providing valuable public engagement with science training and experience for scientists. Participating scientists succeed in creating interest and attentiveness in audiences that do not normally engage in science, thereby opening the door for subsequent experiences. The research will be a quasi-experimental approach to test the degree to which encounters with model's learning experiences create a higher probability to actively seek subsequent science experiences. Project deliverables include a how-to guide for professionals on expanding STEM audiences targeted at cultural institutions who want to incorporate science content into their activities, and for other institutions who want to integrate their activities into cultural settings. The how-to guide will be based on the body of research and evaluations developed that will illuminate the principles behind the model.
This work is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments.
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