Strengthening Informal Science Education in the Latino Community

August 1st, 2009

Latinos are the largest ethnic/racial minority group in the United States, but Latino students score lower than national averages on math and science achievement tests, enroll at lower levels, and are underrepresented in undergraduate and graduate science and engineering programs. How to increase participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) among young Latinos was the subject of an NSF-funded conference held earlier this year by the Self Reliance Foundation (SRF).

Expanding Informal Science Education to Latinos, held March 26-29, 2009, in Albuquerque, New Mexico (#0742157), was attended by more than 100 participants from informal science and science research institutions and representatives of Hispanic organizations, media, and educational programs. Together, they helped to lay groundwork for the development of strategic partnerships for involving Latino audiences in informal science learning.

Among these partnerships is the Hispanic STEM Initiative, which will be launched September 14 in Washington, D.C. by the National Association for Hispanic Education (NAHE). Mike Acosta, a member of the Initiative’s advisory committee and national president of the Society of Mexican American Engineers and Scientists, points to the “urgent importance” of this initiative, “given that less than 2% of the STEM workforce is Hispanic and almost 20% of the country’s youth population is Hispanic.”

Background papers prepared for the conference area are available online, and a workshop to be held October 30 in Fort Worth, Texas, in conjunction with the ASTC Annual Conference will explore similar issues. (If you have already registered for the conference and would like to attend the all-day workshop, contact Bob Russell of SRF. There is no additional charge for the workshop.) Topics include:

  • Connecting Latinos with Science
  • Latino Preferences and Values
  • Culturally Appropriate Evaluation
  • Latino Media and Collaboration
  • Planning Science Programs and Designing Events for Latino Communities
  • Connecting with Parents and Latino Families

As it played host to the conference, SRF was celebrating its 30th anniversary. The organization’s mission is to inform, connect, and empower people by providing equal access to information and services in a broad range of fields that include education, science, technology, civic participation, and the arts. Other NSF-funded initiatives in informal STEM education include Celebra la Ciencia and Conciencia/Hispanic Science Newswire.

A report based on the workshops is being prepared. Check the SRF website for more information.