Spatial inequalities leave micropolitan areas and Indigenous populations underserved by informal STEM learning institutions

October 9th, 2020 | RESEARCH

Informal learning institutions (ILIs) create opportunities to increase public understanding of science and promote increased inclusion of groups underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) careers but are not equally distributed across the United States. We explore geographic gaps in the ILI landscape and identify three groups of underserved counties based on the interaction between population density and poverty percentage. Among ILIs, National Park Service lands, biological field stations, and marine laboratories occur in areas with the fewest sites for informal learning opportunities and have the greatest potential to reach underserved populations, particularly in rural or high poverty counties. Most counties that are underserved by ILIs occur in the Great Plains, the southeast, and the northwest. Furthermore, these counties have higher Indigenous populations who are underrepresented in STEM careers. These unexpected geographic gaps represent opportunities for investments in ILI offerings through collaborations and expansion of existing resources.


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Team Members

Rachel A. Short, Author, Texas A&M University
Rhonda Struminger, Author, Texas A&M University
Jill Zarestky, Author, Colorado State University
James Pippin, Author, Texas A&M University
Minna Wong, Author, Texas A&M University
Lauren Vilen, Author, Colorado State University
A. Michelle Lawing, Author, Texas A&M University


Identifier Type: doi
Identifier: 10.1126/sciadv.abb3819

Publication: Science Advances
Volume: 6
Number: 41


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: AISL
Award Number: 1713359

Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: AISL
Award Number: 1713351

Related URLs

Full Text
Informal Science Learning at Biological Field Stations


Access and Inclusion: Ethnic | Racial | Indigenous and Tribal Communities | Low Socioeconomic Status | Rural
Audience: Educators | Teachers | Evaluators | General Public | Learning Researchers | Museum | ISE Professionals | Scientists
Discipline: Ecology | forestry | agriculture | Education and learning science | General STEM | Life science
Resource Type: Peer-reviewed article | Research Products
Environment Type: Citizen Science Programs | Park | Outdoor | Garden 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 are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

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