Youth Astronomy Apprenticeship - An Initiative to Promote Science Learning Among Urban Youth and Their Communities

Thursday, October 1, 2009
Resource Type:
Summative | Research and Evaluation Instruments | Survey | Coding Schema | Evaluation Reports
Environment Type: 
Public Programs, Afterschool Programs, Community Outreach Programs, Laboratory Programs
Youth/Teen (up to 17) | Museum/ISE Professionals | Evaluators
Education and learning science | Nature of science | Space science
Access and Inclusion: 
Institue for Learning Innovation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Institute for Learning Innovation

The Youth Astronomy Apprenticeship (YAA) is a yearlong, out-of-school time initiative that connects urban teenage youth with astronomy as an effective way to promote scientific literacy and overall positive youth development. The program employs the strategies of a traditional apprenticeship model, common in crafts and trades guilds as well as in higher education. During the apprenticeship, youth develop knowledge and skills to create informal science education projects: through these projects they demonstrate their understanding of astronomy and use their communication skills to connect to general audiences. For some youth, participation extends across multiple years and their responsibilities for program implementation become multifaceted. Through exposing youth to astronomy investigations and providing opportunities to connect with audiences outside their pro-gram and communities, YAA expands scientific literacy to include assuming a science identity. We subscribe to the concept of science identity that describes personal owner-ship and integration of science into an individual's sense of self through processes of comprehension and personal meaning making. In the YAA context science identity extends to and includes assuming an actual science advocacy role. Our methods for measuring the development of a science identity included assessments of youth's perceived and actual understanding of science (cognitive construct), leadership in science (behavior construct), and commitment to science (affective construct). Working with high school youth presents unique opportunities to informal science educators, not available with other age groups. High school youth integrate an under-standing of content knowledge and a new science identity with the process of per-sonal identity development that carries on into adulthood. Focusing on high school youth also allows for applying the development of real-world professional skills as a platform for creating an understanding of content knowledge in a manner that em-phasizes both these skills and knowledge. Data from the Summative Evaluation of the YAA program demonstrate that confidence in advocacy for science is connected to time spent in the program. This underscores the need for a program environment that sustains youth participation over time and continuously builds upon their past positive outcomes. The apprenticeship model is ideal for addressing the needs of older youth, as it provides an opportunity to expand content knowledge, and model and develop professional workplace practices while creating a ladder of achievement and responsibility for youth to rise upon. This report includes coding schema and questionnaires used in the study.

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Associated Projects

Team Members

Emma Norland, PhDEmma NorlandEvaluator
Susan FoutzEvaluator
Mike KrabillMike KrabillEvaluator

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