Youth and Adult Needs in Equity-Oriented Informal STEM Education
This brief focuses on a participatory study with the high school program of the Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center (KAYSC) at the Science Museum of Minnesota (SMM). Young people are organized into teams of up to 20 youth with an adult practitioner who delivers programming based on a STEM content area. Their activities and project-based learning are based in both STEM and social justice, coined in the KAYSC as “STEM Justice.”
As part of our study, we wanted to understand youth and adult needs that exist in an informal STEM education program that weaves equity into its core. This brief presents both youth and adult needs together rather than as needs that are exclusive of each other. The distinction of shared experience, rather than the same experience, acknowledges how youth and adults may be together in a space and still experience programming differently because they occupy different roles and perspectives in the space. Therefore, it is helpful for youth and adults to be aware of each other’s needs. Another way to consider this is, as youth identify their needs, adults also have needs that must be identified in order to allow them to develop their own capacities to respond to youth needs.
Young people’s needs include positive relationships, adults who look like them, relevant opportunities for learning and STEM experiences based on their interests, and opportunities to reshape oppressive narratives. Adult staff needs include resources, space and time to integrate theory and practice and engage in reflective practice, and solidarity. Both young people and adults need collaboration, agency, and work centered in social justice.