Project Spotlight: Engaging Youth in Expanded STEM Career Pathways through Clean Energy Literacy Development

STELAR recently connected with Rena Dorph, Kevin Cuff, and Matthew Cannady (The Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley) about the Engaging Youth in Expanded STEM Career Pathways through Clean Energy Literacy Development project, which involves over 300 students per year in urban East Bay communities in grades 9 and 10 in bridging clean energy science investigations within their community with programming skills.

*     Can you share how your ITEST project impacts youth?

As this is the first year of the project’s implementation, information regarding its impacts is necessarily preliminary in nature. Thus far, it has been observed that through participation in project activities students have:

(1) learned clean energy-related and NGSS-aligned content,
(2) conducted research on related topics generating scientifically accurate information that is valuable to local communities, and
(3) made links between particular content areas and a range of career pathway options

*     What do you think is the most important learning in this area based on your project work to-date?

The project is still in its first year so we do not have much research data to draw upon yet. In the classrooms we are working with within one school district and one instructor, we have found variation in both program implementation and participant experience.

*     What is unique about your work?  

The project is unique in that it utilizes an approach to STEM education that features a set of activities that enable participants to connect energy and energy transfer to a complex set of issues related to environmental change and energy-related societal issues. One such hallmark activity is the student research component that engages students in the collection and analysis of environmental quality data that they later relate to local energy use. Overall, it is hypothesized that utilizing the project’s unique approach will not only increase participants’ understanding of key NGSS core content and practices, but also will positively impact their interest in and preparation for STEM-related career options.  Another unique aspect of this project is the research questions it is designed to investigate:

(1) How do programs differ when they are embedded in the classroom compared to self-selected afterschool program experience?
(2) Can we be successful with a group of students not in the traditional STEM pipeline?
(3) Can these programs have impact beyond the students who are direct participants? 

*     Which STELAR/ITEST resources do you find most valuable?

The regular emails that we receive from STELAR informing us of upcoming webinars and newsletters ensure that we are aware of the STELAR events. The information shared encouraged us to think more deeply regarding particular about aspects of our program, especially dissemination. We hope to have a chance to learn more from the STELAR/ITEST community as we progress with this project.