National Parks Science Challenge
The project will advance efforts by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Institute for Learning Innovation to bring together young adults from communities historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to collaboratively conduct scientifically driven challenges embedded in a mobile learning tool based upon the AAAS Active Explorer platform. The project will be conducted at the Washington National Mall, San Francisco National Golden Gate Park, and the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, and will study how a mobile technology used in these settings can facilitate learner engagement in science content; how it can affect young adults' engagement in science-learning processes; and whether interest in learning science and technology has been furthered. The 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, including pathways for broadening access to STEM learning experiences and advancing research STEM learning. Research questions will investigate science learning inequalities by addressing how place-based augmented reality games can connect young adults to scientific practices, including observing science phenomena, analyzing data, and communicating findings; how young adults develop science skills related to their science self-efficacy through participation in augmented reality science exploration; and how mobile technologies and gaming can serve as mediators that enable young adults to improve their science identity. In addition to engaging young adults in science activities at the National Parks and increasing their science skills, the project will provide valuable information to National Park staff and scientists to assist them in designing effective tools, resources and experiences to better engage young adults. Research teams will collect data in the form of digital ethnography, focus groups, activity reports, artifacts, and surveys. The project will document learning and engagement through mobile technology in three urban national parks that will involve 60 young adults at each location, and will create innovative measurement tools to monitor how informal settings can leverage the intersections of the arts and sciences to support student engagement and learning.