Urban Youth Participation in Community and Citizen Science

September 15th, 2021 - August 31st, 2025 | PROJECT

Environmental Protectors is a four-year project based at the University of California at Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science. The project is designed to explore the educational and developmental impact of an informal science education programming model that features Community and Citizen Science (CCS) activities for youth of color residing in urban communities. The project is grounded in hypothesis that CCS-focused experiences result in learning outcomes that better position youth of color to more effectively engage in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) related educational, occupational, and civic activities. Each year, in three economically challenged urban communities located throughout the country, youth of color between the ages of 14 and 18 will participate in month-long summer or semester-long afterschool programs. These programs will feature CCS-related activities that include collection, analysis, interpretation and presentation of data that addresses local, pressing environmental quality concerns, such as soil lead contamination and air particulate matter pollution. The project will use a mix of qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis to assess the impact of youth engagement in these CCS activities. Overall, through its implementation the project aims to generate information useful in nationwide efforts designed to identify effective strategies and approaches that contribute to increasing STEM understanding and interest among youth of color.

Project research is guided by the following questions: A) What are ways to increase STEM engagement among those who have typically been underrepresented in Community and Citizen Science (CCS) research projects in particular and STEM in general? B) When youth are engaged in CCS, what outcomes are observed related to their science agency and science activism? What other unanticipated outcomes are observed related to benefits of participation and learning? C) How does science activism develop in youth participating in CCS?; and D) How do differences in program implementation impact youth outcomes. In particular, the project explores the manner in which particular CCS activities (e.g., project design, data analysis and interpretation, data presentation) impact youth “Science Agency,” defined as a combination of constructs that include Science Identity (i.e., sense of themselves as science thinkers), Science Value (i.e., awareness of the potential benefits of applying scientific practices to addressing critical community health and environmental issues) and Science Competency Beliefs (i.e., belief of themselves as competent science practitioners) and “Science Activism,” defined as a combination of perceived behavioral control and personal salience. Through its execution the project will refine a theory of learning that makes explicit connections between these constructs. Information derived from the execution of the project will contribute to deeper understanding of the potential for using of CCS projects as a key component of science education environments in urban areas and in general.

This Research in Service to Practice project is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Team Members

Kevin Cuff, Principal Investigator, University of California-Berkeley
Mac Cannady, Co-Principal Investigator
Sarah Olsen, Co-Principal Investigator


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 2115614
Funding Amount: $1,999,250


Access and Inclusion: Ethnic | Racial | Low Socioeconomic Status | Urban
Audience: Museum | ISE Professionals | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Ecology | forestry | agriculture
Resource Type: Project Descriptions | Projects
Environment Type: Afterschool Programs | Citizen Science Programs | Public Programs | Summer and Extended Camps

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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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