Collaborative Informal STEM Learning Between Researchers and Homeless Communities

September 1st, 2020 - August 31st, 2022 | PROJECT

This Pilot and Feasibility project will investigate: a) the kinds of learning outcomes that occur in an informal STEM project utilizing a Critical Environmental Justice-informed Participatory Action Research framework, co-created between researchers and homeless communities, and b) the challenges and opportunities that arise in evaluating such collaborative projects. To address these questions, a team of university and community researchers will work with two self-organized homeless communities, in Portland, OR and Baltimore, MD, to systematically examine air quality at their sites and further develop a multimedia environmental justice toolkit. The toolkit is aimed at equipping homeless communities with STEM-based information and approaches to learn about and address various environmental hazards. Homeless people are disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of air and soil pollution, rodents, extreme weather, floods, fires, and other hazards. This collaboration will study STEM learning outcomes related to the broader historical socio-political context in which people are living. The project also anticipates finding ways to adapt evaluation processes to better suit the needs of marginalized groups participating in informal STEM projects.

Guided by this integrated framework, the team will undertake participant observation, interviews, focus groups, and document analysis to assess learning. It also anticipates gaining insights into how evaluation processes may be adapted to better suit the needs of marginalized groups participating in informal STEM learning. This project 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. 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.

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.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Team Members

Chris Hawn, Principal Investigator, University of Maryland Baltimore County
Melanie Malone, Co-Principal Investigator
Erin Goodling, Co-Principal Investigator
Dillon Mahmoudi, Co-Principal Investigator
Anthony Levenda, Co-Principal Investigator


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 2005750
Funding Amount: $299,999


Access and Inclusion: Low Socioeconomic Status
Audience: Evaluators | General Public | Museum | ISE Professionals | Scientists
Discipline: Ecology | forestry | agriculture | General STEM
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Citizen Science Programs | Community Outreach Programs | Public Programs

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This material is supported by National Science Foundation award DRL-2229061, with previous support under DRL-1612739, DRL-1842633, DRL-1212803, and DRL-0638981. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations contained within are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

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