Project Profile

Supporting Rightful Presence in Museum Spaces: Youth as Participatory Designers of Indigenous Mixed Reality Science Exhibits


This project will address the ongoing marginalization of Indigenous communities in informal science learning spaces by developing and studying a model that strengthens Indigenous youths? disposition toward, and capacity for STEM pathways. Science centers and museums play an important role in promoting science learning outside of schools. However, they are often perceived by communities historically and chronically marginalized in science as unwelcoming and/or culturally irrelevant. Merely increasing access for Indigenous communities is insufficient to promote equitable, affirming, and just engagement with science learning. Instead, asset-based approaches that center nondominant cultures are needed to advance more expansive and transformative models of science that promote rightful presence: the idea that visitors will experience a sense of belonging and respect. Building on a partnership between University of California?s Lawrence Hall of Science and mak-?amham, an Indigenous Ohlone cultural organization that empowers Ohlone people with a rich cultural identity, the project will engage Ohlone youth (ages 10-16) in iterative cycles of participatory design and prototyping to create immersive Indigenous science exhibit experiences using mixed reality technologies. In centering Indigenous perspectives within science and technology learning experiences and highlighting connections between Indigenous cultural identities and contemporary STEM career pathways, the project aims to reframe STEM learning to increase Indigenous youth?s rightful presence in informal STEM learning spaces, with the potential to lead to a more diverse STEM workforce.

The project team will employ participatory design-based research methodologies to investigate the following three research questions: 1) What are the outcomes of youth participation in the design of mixed reality exhibits? a) How do youth develop a sense of belonging, science identity, and STEM career interest, and in what ways do these make visible and amplify their rightful presence in informal science education spaces? b) How do youth deepen and construct new STEM knowledge through Indigenous Science-based participatory design? 2) How can a participatory design model be developed in ways that center Indigenous Science and contribute to Indigenous rightful presence in informal science education? 3) How can informal science educators be supported to make sense of and center Indigenous Science? In collaboration with an Ohlone Research Advisory Committee, the project team will analyze the following data: interviews with focal youth; artifact-elicited focus groups; ethnographic observations of design workshops and reflective conversations; and design artifacts gathered from youth design teams. By engaging a total of 70 Indigenous youth directly, project research will investigate the impact of the participatory design model on youths? STEM learning, science identity, and interest in STEM careers, and advance understanding of design practices that contribute to rightful presence for Indigenous youth. The research will also generate insights into how to support informal science educators in facilitating Indigenous-centered learning experiences. Project findings will be disseminated to informal science and technology learning communities to support principled adaptation of the Indigenous Science youth participatory design model in informal science education contexts. This project is funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts and processes contributing to increasing students' knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers.


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Principal Investigator(s)
Co-Principal Investigator(s)


Award Number
Project Duration
2023 - 2026
Developing and Testing Innovations (DTI)
University of California Berkeley
Project Work State
Target Gradespan(s)
Middle school (6-8)
High school (9-12)
Project Setting(s)
Informal Education
Geographic Location(s)
Project Status
Computer and informational technology science
Environmental sciences
Life sciences
Target Participants
Youth / students