Collaborative Informal STEM Learning Between Researchers and Homeless Communities

Tuesday, September 1, 2020 to Wednesday, August 31, 2022
Resource Type:
Project Descriptions
Environment Type: 
Public Programs, Citizen Science Programs, Community Outreach Programs
General Public | Museum/ISE Professionals | Scientists | Evaluators
Ecology, forestry, and agriculture | General STEM
Access and Inclusion: 
Low Socioeconomic Status
University of Maryland Baltimore County

This Pilot and Feasibility project will investigate: a) the kinds of learning outcomes that occur in an informal STEM project utilizing a Critical Environmental Justice-informed Participatory Action Research framework, co-created between researchers and homeless communities, and b) the challenges and opportunities that arise in evaluating such collaborative projects. To address these questions, a team of university and community researchers will work with two self-organized homeless communities, in Portland, OR and Baltimore, MD, to systematically examine air quality at their sites and further develop a multimedia environmental justice toolkit. The toolkit is aimed at equipping homeless communities with STEM-based information and approaches to learn about and address various environmental hazards. Homeless people are disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of air and soil pollution, rodents, extreme weather, floods, fires, and other hazards. This collaboration will study STEM learning outcomes related to the broader historical socio-political context in which people are living. The project also anticipates finding ways to adapt evaluation processes to better suit the needs of marginalized groups participating in informal STEM projects.

Guided by this integrated framework, the team will undertake participant observation, interviews, focus groups, and document analysis to assess learning. It also anticipates gaining insights into how evaluation processes may be adapted to better suit the needs of marginalized groups participating in informal STEM learning. This project is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments. This includes providing multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences, advancing innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments, and developing understandings of deeper learning by participants.

This 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

Chris HawnChris HawnPrincipal Investigator
Melanie MaloneMelanie MaloneCo-Principal Investigator
Erin GoodlingErin GoodlingCo-Principal Investigator
Dillon MahmoudiDillon MahmoudiCo-Principal Investigator
Anthony LevendaAnthony LevendaCo-Principal Investigator

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