Exploratory research and co-design to identify opportunities to support caregiver engagement in early STEM learning

September 15th, 2022 - August 31st, 2024 | PROJECT

This project addresses the urgent need for the development of equitable approaches to early childhood STEM education that honor the diverse cultural practices through which caregivers (such as parents, grandparents, and other adults in children’s lives) support young children’s learning. Recent studies suggest that both formal and informal educational institutions often privilege Western or Eurocentric parenting practices, neglecting many families’ cultural practices and ways of learning. This study will bring together a group of caregivers, pre-K educators, researchers, and museum staff to investigate how families with young children negotiate among their own cultural practices and the types of STEM learning they encounter in museums, schools, and other community settings. The project team will work together to identify opportunities for informal STEM learning institutions to strengthen their roles as places that can bridge home and school environments and open up new possibilities for building on caregivers’ knowledge and cultural practices within this larger community context. The project will directly benefit the 330 families whose children attend the partnering public school each year, as well as hundreds of families who attend family events at the New York Hall of Science annually. Finally, by considering nuances in caregivers’ perspectives and experiences based on multiple facets of their identities, the research will reveal how structures in educational settings might be changed to become more inclusive and culturally responsive for the broadest possible audience of families.

This Pilots and Feasibility project seeks to 1) conduct exploratory research to understand caregiver engagement, defined as caregivers’ expectations, values, and practices related to their roles in children’s learning, from the perspectives of caregivers, and 2) engage in co-design efforts with caregivers and pre-K educators to explore how the museum can be leveraged as a material and creative resource to support caregiver engagement in STEM learning. This work will be carried out in the context of a long-term partnership between the New York Hall of Science and the New York City Department of Education. Methods will include in-depth interviews with caregivers, using narrative and intersectional research methods to extend existing studies on caregiver engagement in informal STEM learning, while taking into account multiple aspects of families’ social and cultural identities. This work will be carried out in Corona — a neighborhood in Queens, NY, largely made up of low-income and first-generation immigrant families. The project team will collaboratively interpret findings and engage in the initial phases of co-design work, which will include: reflecting on the systems currently in place to support caregivers’ involvement in children’s learning across settings; collaboratively generating new, culturally responsive strategies for leveraging the museum as a material and creative resource for families with young children; and choosing promising directions for further development and testing. Products from this work will include directions for new caregiver engagement initiatives that can be developed and refined as the partnership continues, and strategies for supporting equitable participation by caregivers, pre-K educators, and other community stakeholders in future research-practice partnerships.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products

2023 AISL Awardee Mini-Poster: 2215353

Team Members

Susan Letourneau, Principal Investigator, New York Hall of Science
Delia Meza, Co-Principal Investigator
Jasmine Maldonado, Co-Principal Investigator


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 2215353
Funding Amount: $299,722.00


Access and Inclusion: Ethnic | Racial | Immigrant Communities | Low Socioeconomic Status
Audience: Educators | Teachers | Families | Learning Researchers | Museum | ISE Professionals | Parents | Caregivers | Pre-K Children (0-5)
Discipline: Education and learning science | General STEM
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Informal | Formal Connections | Museum and Science Center Programs | Pre-K | Early Childhood 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 InformalScience.org are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

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