SciGirls in the National Parks: Building Positive STEM Identities in Underserved Girls in Citizen Science Programs Using Gender Equitable and Culturally Responsive Practices

Monday, June 1, 2020 to Wednesday, May 31, 2023
Resource Type:
Project Descriptions
Environment Type: 
Media and Technology, Broadcast Media, Public Programs, Citizen Science Programs, Park, Outdoor, and Garden Programs
Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum/ISE Professionals | Scientists
General STEM
Access and Inclusion: 
Women and Girls
Low Socioeconomic Status
Twin Cities Public Television, Cornell University

As part of its overall strategy to enhance learning in informal environments, the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program funds innovative resources for use in a variety of settings. This Innovations in Development project addresses the need to broaden girls' participation in STEM studies and career pathways. While women make up 47% of the U.S. workforce, they hold only 28.3% of STEM jobs and only 1 in 10 employed engineers and scientists are minority women. Girls of low socioeconomic status start losing interest and confidence in STEM during middle school, and this decline often continues as girls get older. Multiple sociocultural barriers contribute to girl's loss of confidence including gender and ethnic stereotypes; lack of culturally responsive programming; limited exposure to women role models; and few or no hands-on STEM experiences. This project builds upon the success of SciGirls, the PBS television show and national outreach program, which provides professional development on research-based gender equitable and culturally responsive teaching strategies designed to engage girls in STEM. It is a collaboration between Twin Cities Public Television, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and the National Park Service. The project's goal is to create media-rich citizen science experiences for girls, particularly girls of color and/or from rural areas, which broaden their STEM participation, build positive STEM identities and increase girls' understanding of scientific concepts, while leveraging citizen science engagement at national parks. Project deliverables include 1) creating five new PBS SciGirls episodes that feature real girls working with women mentors in 16 National Parks, 2) producing five new role model videos of women National Park Service STEM professionals, nationally disseminated on multiple PBS platforms, 3) providing professional development for educators and role models. This project will increase access to STEM education for girls of color and/or from rural areas, inspiring and preparing them for future STEM workforce participation. It will build the capacity of educators and National Park Service women role models to create educational and professional programs that are welcoming to girls of varying racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and geographic backgrounds. SciGirls' massive reach to diverse audiences via PBS broadcast and multiple PBS digital platforms will amplify public scientific literacy, particularly for 21st- century audiences that connect, learn and live online.

The research study conducted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology will address these questions: 1) To what extent does the use of culturally responsive and gender equitable multimedia in citizen science programming affect girls' learning outcomes, and contribute to the development of positive STEM identity' 2) how will their experiencing citizen science in the parks influence girls' connection to nature? At the beginning of the project all participating girls (n=160) will complete a survey on their interest in science, efficacy for doing science, and knowledge of citizen science and project-specific subject matter. Researchers will use the suite of DEVISE instruments most of which have been validated for youth to measure these constructs. To measure connection to nature, researchers will use the Connection to Nature Index, a scale developed for children. Interviews with the girls will be used to obtain qualitative data to supplement the survey data. Pre-post data will be analyzed to determine the influence of the culturally responsive media and experiences on girls' STEM identities. Researchers will share findings with the project evaluator to triangulate data between educators' implementation of the strategies and girls' learning outcome providing a more holistic picture of the overall program.

This Innovations in Development award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Funding Program: 
Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 
Funding Amount: 

Team Members

Rita KarlPrincipal Investigator
Rick BonneyCo-Principal Investigator
Karen PetersonCo-Principal Investigator

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