Interest Catalysts: The Unique Ways Families Connect with Program Experiences to Support Long-Term STEM Interest Pathways in Early Childhood

March 30th, 2022 | RESEARCH

Interest is a critical motivating factor shaping how children engage with STEM inside and outside of school and across their lives. In this paper, we introduce the concept of interest catalyst that emerged from longitudinal research with preschool-age children and their families as critical to the process through which each family developed unique interest pathways through their experience with a family-based informal engineering education program. As defined by the team, an interest catalyst is an instance or moment in which an element of the program (or other learning resource or experience) connects with the prior interests, knowledge, experiences, or values of the family in order to catalyze new, reinforced, or transformed interests or interest-related behaviors. The concept emphasizes that interest development is not a property of only the family or the experience but a unique combination and outcome of the two.



Team Members

Scott Pattison, Author, TERC
Smirla Ramos-Montañez, Author, TERC
Alicia Santiago, Author, Mt. Hood Community College Head Start
Gina Navoa Svarovsky, Author, University of Notre Dame
Annie Douglass, Author, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
Verónika Núñez, Author, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
Julie Allen, Author, Mt. Hood Community College Head Start
Catherine Wagner, Author, University of Notre Dame


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 1906409
Funding Amount: $1,504,097.00

Related URLs

Collaborative Research: Head Start on Engineering: Developing a Learning Community to Study and Support Family-level Interest in Engineering


Audience: Educators | Teachers | Families | Learning Researchers | Museum | ISE Professionals | Parents | Caregivers | Pre-K Children (0-5)
Discipline: Education and learning science | Engineering
Resource Type: Conference Proceedings | Reference Materials | Research
Environment Type: Informal | Formal Connections | Pre-K | Early Childhood Programs