About the Project
The Los Angeles region, like the nation, faces a need for enhancing STEM learning, both for a future workforce and for a public in need of a stronger understanding of science and its impact on our planet. Addressing this need requires providing new opportunities to learn, as well as developing future teachers who truly engage and inspire students in STEM learning. California lacks opportunities for high-quality in-school K-8 science learning. Improving this situation will require new elementary teachers to be confident and prepared to provide active, inquiry-based learning, something they may not experience in normal student teaching.
Improving STEM learning also means recognizing that it is not bound to the classroom. Instead, we must consider the learning that takes place in other contexts and at other times— after-school programs, summer camps and other Out of School Time (OST) projects, as well as science museums, aquariums and other informal science education institutions (ISEIs) are just a few places where youth may develop an interest in and deeper understanding of science, math, or engineering.
A recent NRC conference, STEM Learning is Everywhere, emphasized the importance of recognizing the numerous STEM learning opportunities throughout a given community. The learning ecosystem created by this constellation of opportunities serves as a potentially large and resource-filled setting where children can access and explore their STEM interests in a variety of ways. By introducing future science teachers eager to practice the art of student engagement into this array of opportunities, we may be able to impact these ecosystems by:
- fostering future science teachers' abilities to provide meaningful, engaging learning experiences,
- providing new opportunities for children to engage in STEM activities and also consider the possibilities of STEM-related careers, and
- advancing the development of scientifically literate children and families.
Such outcomes can be made possible through effective collaboration across a community.
The Developing Effective and Engaging Practice in STEM (DEEP) project implemented 3 university-community collaborations to enhance youth and family learning opportunities while preparing new teachers with a deeper understanding of STEM teaching and learning. The DEEP project is significant in that it explores and compares different approaches for supporting the STEM ecosystem while helping new teachers gain critical experiences leading to effective instruction. These approaches included an early field work experience for undergraduate science majors considering science teaching, embedded practicum experiences for teacher candidates enrolled in science teaching methods courses, and an internship program designed to develop new teachers as leaders in high quality STEM education.
The use of OST sites and ISEIs as settings for exploring STEM teaching is an emerging trend in the field of teacher education. As a way of augmenting children's and future teachers' STEM teaching opportunities in the classroom (especially K-6), the collaboration models have tremendous potential for expanding STEM learning opportunities within the community, improving teachers' practices, and developing STEM teacher leaders.
This project was supported by the W.M. Keck Foundation.