EAGER: Maker: Engaging Parents as Makers to Build Capacity for Community-Based Making

Friday, September 1, 2017 to Friday, August 31, 2018
Resource Type:
Project Descriptions | Projects
Environment Type: 
Public Programs, Making and Tinkering Programs, Museum and Science Center Programs
Families | Parents/Caregivers | Museum/ISE Professionals | Evaluators | Learning Researchers
Education and learning science | General STEM
Access and Inclusion: 
Low Socioeconomic Status
New York Hall of Science

The Maker movement has grown considerably over the past decade, both in the USA and internationally. Several varieties of "making" have been developed, but there are still many important questions to ask and research to conduct about how different programmatic structures may relate to the potential impact Maker programs can have on individuals and communities. As part of a larger, long-range initiative in their local community, the New York Hall of Science proposes to leverage the philosophy and activities of the Maker movement to take important first steps toward realizing their eventual goal of developing family and community-wide commitment to and improvement of STEM education. The project would build both foundational and practical knowledge about how parents with little or no prior knowledge of or experience with Making choose to engage with, contribute to, and learn from Maker programming designed for families with children from low-income households and backgrounds that are under-represented in the STEM professions. The intent is to build their understanding of the value of Making as a pathway toward deeper STEM learning. The project is characterized as "high-risk with potentially high-payoff." It applies a community psychology approach (rather than individual psychology) to the study of Making, and it focuses on parents as potential learners and leaders. While some work has been done in the field with respect to the role of parents in Maker environments, this is a new approach to the study of Making and its potential influence on the broader culture of STEM learning in a community. 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.

Two informal learning environments will be developed and studied at the New York Hall of Science: Learning Together, a table-top, minimally staff-facilitated setting in the Hall's science library, and Family Making, a high-tech and staff-facilitated experience in the Hall's maker facility. The study poses two research questions: (1) How, and to what extent, do the Learning Together and Family Making programs attract and sustain parental engagement, parental facilitation of children's activity, and parents' own explorations of Making? (2) From a community psychology perspective, what social structures, resources, social processes, and surrounding institutional conditions support or impede these parental pathways into exploring and understanding Making as a pathway toward STEM learning? The study will involve sustained collaborations between the Hall's Maker Space staff and research team, and will seek to generate guidance about how to design Maker programming that attracts and retains low-income, under-served family groups and new knowledge about how external structures and practices shape this audiences' perceptions of and interest in Making as a mode of STEM learning.

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Team Members

Katherine McMillanKatherine McMillanPrincipal Investigator
David WellsDavid WellsCo-Principal Investigator
Susan LetourneauSusan LetourneauProject Staff

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