Interest Catalysts: The Unique Ways Families Connect with Program Experiences to Support Long-Term STEM Interest Pathways in Early Childhood

Wednesday, March 30, 2022
Resource Type:
Conference Proceedings | Research | Reference Materials
Environment Type: 
Informal/Formal Connections, Pre-K/Early Childhood Programs
Pre-K Children (0-5) | Families | Parents/Caregivers | Educators/Teachers | Museum/ISE Professionals | Learning Researchers
Education and learning science | Engineering
TERC, Mt. Hood Community College Head Start, University of Notre Dame, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Interest is a critical motivating factor shaping how children engage with STEM inside and outside of school and across their lives. In this paper, we introduce the concept of interest catalyst that emerged from longitudinal research with preschool-age children and their families as critical to the process through which each family developed unique interest pathways through their experience with a family-based informal engineering education program. As defined by the team, an interest catalyst is an instance or moment in which an element of the program (or other learning resource or experience) connects with the prior interests, knowledge, experiences, or values of the family in order to catalyze new, reinforced, or transformed interests or interest-related behaviors. The concept emphasizes that interest development is not a property of only the family or the experience but a unique combination and outcome of the two.

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

Team Members

Alicia SantiagoAlicia SantiagoAuthor
Verónika NúñezVerónika NúñezAuthor
Julie AllenJulie AllenAuthor
Catherine WagnerCatherine WagnerAuthor

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