Making the Maker: A Pathway to STEM for Elementary School Students
Building on the highly energized national Maker's Movement involving government offices, schools, and businesses now sweeping the country, this project will explore ways to engage more children in the effort and become motivated and interested in STEM. The project will target 200 children at grades 3-5 to involve them in the "Maker's mindset" from an early age. The goal is for children to develop strong self-identities in STEM areas through their involvement in arts, crafts, and narrative storytelling.
For three years, Latino and African American children will participate in a STEM-inspired intervention based on principles of the Making Movement from a constructivist perspective in a project-based learning environment. Students will learn basic concepts in electricity, circuitry, Ohm's Law, 3D printing, electronic load balancing, LEDs, resistances, transistors, and diodes as well as age-appropriate knowledge and skills in geometry that is intended to foster self-identity with a Maker mindset. Research shows that engaging children early on in these types of activities builds strong affiliations with the larger STEM community, creates a sense of belonging in that community, and helps prepare children to easily assimilate within the rapidly changing technological world. To ensure that the Making activities are not an end unto themselves, teachers will participate in ongoing professional development activities to learn how to integrate Making activities into the existing science curriculum for the longer term. This iteratively designed study stems from prior NSF support and is structured around four threads aimed at: (a) conceptualizing the Maker's movement in terms of early childhood development; (b) instilling a Maker's mindset in children; (c) influencing children's identity about STEM; and (d) benefiting society through contributions to the future STEM workforce. Research questions structured around these threads will guide the project team's work with 100 children in five cohorts over three years who will participate in the Maker's intervention to observe the effects on children's self-identity with STEM. The project team will use a mixed-methods design to allow comparisons across three grades each year. A control group of 100 children at the same grades will be used for comparison purposes. The expected outcome is that over time, children will begin to see themselves as active partakers of and contributors to STEM fields and what STEM careers might offer.