Comunidad de Ciencia: Building Latina STEM Interest through Community Cultural Wealth and Familial Problem-Based Learning

September 1st, 2020 - August 31st, 2025 | PROJECT

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 project aims to understand ways to empower Latinx families (adult caregivers) to feel confident in their ability to support their middle school-aged girls in science and engineering activities. The project involves seven weeks of family programming around rockets or urban farming, as well as separate conversation groups for adult family members and girls. The project is relevant for several reasons: females and Latinx individuals are both underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) coursework and careers; girls tend to lose interest in STEM by middle school age; and adult family members may have an impact on their children's attitudes and interests. The project partners with school districts and nonprofit organizations in Arizona and California.

This multidisciplinary project's priority is broadening participation, with a focus on increasing Latina girls' science and engineering interests through Family Project-Based Learning Activities, Conversation Groups, and a cultivated Community of Learners. It is based on the frameworks of Social Cognitive Career Theory and Community Cultural Wealth. The project aims to empower families (adult caregivers) to feel confident in their ability to support their daughters in science and engineering activities, which is often low especially among Latinx parents. The project will develop and evaluate two out-of-school enrichment methods for aiding families in encouraging and supporting their daughters in science: Family Problem-Based Learning Activities, which focus on rockets and urban farming, and Conversation Groups, which provide information and discussion for separate groups of parents and girls. A series of pilot studies will be conducted with 80 families to iteratively evaluate and improve the materials and procedure prior to the main study with 180 families, featuring a factorial design with a control group.

The materials developed and research findings may inform similar projects, especially those for students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and projects seeking to enhance the role of families in learning. The hypothesis guiding the project is that the greatest gains will be produced with the synergistic combination of enrichment methods. Another component that can potentially have broad impact is working to create environments where Community Cultural Wealth is recognized and enhanced through interactions of different families, creating Communities of Learners. This can inform projects that recognize the importance of community and/or that seek to use culture as an asset. The proposed study will engage three geographically distributed universities and several community partners. It will also provide university students and community leaders opportunities for work on instructional design, implementation, and research. The team will disseminate their findings and methods through multiple avenues to reach researchers, parents, leaders, curators, and educators in informal and K-12 settings.

This Research in Service to Practice 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)

Project Products

2023 AISL Awardee Mini-Poster: 2005319

Team Members

Katherine Short-Meyerson, Principal Investigator, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
Peter Rillero, Co-Principal Investigator
Peter Meyerson, Co-Principal Investigator
Margarita Jimenez-Silva, Co-Principal Investigator
Christopher Edwards, Co-Principal Investigator


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 2005319
Funding Amount: $644,129


Access and Inclusion: English Language Learners | Ethnic | Racial | Hispanic | Latinx Communities | Women and Girls
Audience: Adults | Families | Middle School Children (11-13)
Discipline: Ecology | forestry | agriculture | Engineering | General STEM
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Community Outreach Programs | Public Programs