Creating an Early Childhood STEM Ecosystem
This one-year Collaborative Planning project seeks to bring together an interdisciplinary planning team of informal and formal STEM educators, researchers, scientists, community, and policy experts to identify the elements, activities, and community relationships necessary to cultivate and sustain a thriving regional early childhood (ages 3-6) STEM ecosystem. Based in Southeast San Diego, planning and research will focus on understanding the needs and interests of young Latino dual language learners from low income homes, as well as identify regional assets (e.g., museums, afterschool programs, universities, schools) that could coalesce efforts to systematically increase access to developmentally appropriate informal STEM activities and resources, particularly those focused on engineering and computational thinking. This project has the potential to enhance the infrastructure of early STEM education by providing a model for the planning and development of early childhood focused coalitions around the topic of STEM learning and engagement. In addition, identifying how to bridge STEM learning experiences between home, pre-k learning environments, and formal school addresses a longstanding challenge of sustaining STEM skills as young children transition between environments. The planning process will use an iterative mixed-methods approach to develop both qualitative and quantitative and data. Specific planning strategies include the use of group facilitation techniques such as World Café, graphic recording, and live polling. Planning outcomes include: 1) a literature review on STEM ecosystems; 2) an Early Childhood STEM Community Asset Map of southeast San Diego; 3) a set of proposed design principles for identifying and creating early childhood STEM ecosystems in low income communities; and 4) a theory of action that could guide future design and research. This project is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments.