Embodied Physics: STEM Learning for Under-Represented Youth

September 1st, 2017 - August 31st, 2019 | PROJECT

A collaboration of TERC, MIT, The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and community-based dance centers in Boston, this exploratory project seeks to address two main issues in informal science learning: 1) broadening participation in science by exploring how to expand science access to African-American and Latino youth and 2) augmenting science learning in informal contexts, specifically learning physics in community-based dance sites. Building on the growing field of "embodied learning," the project is an outgrowth in part of activities over the past decade at TERC and MIT that have investigated approaches to linking science, human movement and dance. Research in embodied learning investigates how the whole body, not just the brain, contributes to learning. Such research is exploring the potential impacts on learning in school settings and, in this case, in out of school environments. This project is comprised of two parts, the first being an exploration of how African-American and Latino high school students experience learning in the context of robust informal arts-based learning environments such as community dance studios. In the second phase, the collaborative team will then identify and pilot an intervention that includes principles for embodied learning of science, specifically in physics. This phase will begin with MIT undergraduate and graduate students developing the course before transitioning to the community dance studios. 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.

The goal of this pilot feasibility study is to build resources for science learning environments in which African-American and Latino students can develop identities as people who practice and are engaged in scientific inquiry. Youth will work with choreographers, physicists and educators to embody carefully selected physics topics. The guiding hypothesis is that authentic inquiries into scientific topics and methods through embodied learning approaches can provide rich opportunities for African-American and Latino high school-aged youth to learn key ideas in physics and to strengthen confidence in their ability to become scientists. A design- based research approach will be used, with data being derived from surveys, interviews, observational field notes, video documentation, a case study, and physical artifacts produced by participants. The study will provide the groundwork for producing a set of potential design principles for future projects relating to informal learning contexts, art and science education with African American and Latino youth.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products

2019 AISL PI Meeting Poster: Embodied Physics: STEM Learning for Underrepresented Youth

Team Members

Folashade Cromwell Solomon, Principal Investigator, TERC Inc
Tracey Wright, Co-Principal Investigator
Lawrence Pratt, Co-Principal Investigator, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: AISL
Award Number: 1713393
Funding Amount: $299,868.00


Access and Inclusion: Black | African American Communities | Ethnic | Racial | Hispanic | Latinx Communities
Audience: Educators | Teachers | Evaluators | Learning Researchers | Museum | ISE Professionals | Scientists | Undergraduate | Graduate Students | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Art | music | theater | Education and learning science | General STEM | Physics
Resource Type: Project Descriptions | Projects
Environment Type: Community Outreach Programs | Higher Education Programs | Informal | Formal Connections | Public Programs