STEM Ecologies of Learning for Families: Supporting Intergenerational Learning through University-Prison Partnerships

July 1st, 2019 - June 30th, 2020 | PROJECT

The project will develop and research the ways in which maker education activities can be leveraged to support intergenerational learning in hyper-vulnerable populations, such as families with an incarcerated parent. Maker education is often linked to STEM learning and uses hands-on and collaborative approaches to support activities and projects that foster creativity, interest, and skill development. Research has shown that maker education activities support STEM learning and creativity, the development of STEM identities and dispositions, and create pathways towards STEM careers. The project will develop a series of project activities including bringing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) learning experts to a women's minimum-security facility for lectures on research and a set of workshops exploring maker activities for the incarcerated women and their children. By researching trauma-informed maker practices for families with an incarcerated parent, the project will develop research findings related to and practical resources for supporting these practices in other informal STEM learning contexts.

While evidence shows that maker pedagogy can be effective in supporting STEM learning for diverse populations, little is known about how it might support STEM learning for incarcerated women and their children. The project will investigate: (1) the everyday STEM practices of incarcerated women and their children and how these practices can be supported and extended through maker activities; (2) how incarcerated women and their children are perceived with respect to STEM and the impact these perceptions have on developing STEM identities; and (3) what design principles for developing STEM learning emerge through the project research. Program activities and related research will be designed and researched through the collaboration of incarcerated women, university researchers from the project university partners, the Saint Louis University Prison Program, and the Federal Correctional Institution-Camp (Greenville Women's Minimum Security Facility). The project will use Social Design Experimentation (SDE) as the primary research method, which is used to design and study education interventions on site. SDE is unique in that participants, researchers and other stakeholders collaborate to meet the goals of the project and related research. Project deliverables, which will be widely disseminated to researchers and educators, will include articles in peer-reviewed and educator publications, strategies and design principles for developing maker education opportunities for hyper-vulnerable populations, and practical recommendations for a maker kit to facilitate STEM maker education activities and family interaction.

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which supports innovative research, approaches, and resources for use in a variety of learning settings.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Team Members

Cynthia Graville, Principal Investigator, Saint Louis University


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 1906933
Funding Amount: $287,354


Access and Inclusion: Women and Girls
Audience: Evaluators | Families | Learning Researchers | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Education and learning science | General STEM
Resource Type: Project Descriptions | Projects
Environment Type: Making and Tinkering Programs | Public Programs