"I Could See Myself as a Scientist": The Potential of Out-of-School Time Programs to Influence Girls’ Identities in Science
“The activity where we collected organisms was a good influence ’cause I could see myself as a scientist. I got to do the actual thing.” These words from Celeste, a girl who participated in the Coastal Ecology program at the Chincoteague Bay Field Station on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, are not unique. Other girls who participated in the program offered similar input, suggesting that engaging in science in this out-of-school time (OST) setting enhanced their identity and sense of self as learners of science. OST programs like the Coastal Ecology science camp can positively influence science identities, particularly for youth from groups historically underserved and underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). OST STEM programming gives youth opportunities to learn science outside the formal classroom in such settings as afterschool programs, science camps, outreach programs, internships, and scouting. OST science programs often do not formally assess participants or assign grades. They provide opportunities for authentic, meaningful learning that may be more comfortable for some youth than school curricula (National Research Council, 2009; Rennie, 2007, 2014). Further, OST programs may give youth access to resources and to scientific practices and tools not typically available in classrooms (Luehmann, 2009). This access may be especially important for youth from underresourced schools.