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Urban STEM Stewards: Expanding Career Interests through Citizen Science with Community Partners

Primary Investigator(s): Matthew Diemer

Funding Agency: University of Wisconsin and the National Science Foundation

Period: 6/1/2018 - ongoing

Dr. Matthew Diemer has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation titled “Urban STEM Stewards: Expanding Career Interests through Citizen-Science with Community Partners.” Dr. Diemer will work with colleagues from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Michigan-Dearborn to focus on an innovative model of citizen-science in which urban middle-high school students collaborate with teachers and STEM professionals. Participants will apply learning to address local environmental issues. Based on pilot data, positive changes in students’ STEM attitudes, beliefs, and career aspirations associated with participation are expected.

By linking students’ STEM learning with their civic contribution, the project offers a unique approach to STEM career pathways for students from marginalized communities. It will contribute to motivational theory and STEM education by providing insights into ways to build on students’ interest sparked by their citizen-science projects and to support connections between students’ community goals and STEM utility value. The emphasis on partnerships with STEM professionals will reveal whether “doing science” in this way expands students’ concepts of STEM career pathways to pursue.

The focus on the civic impacts that students of color have by applying STEM learning to environmental issues has unique potential for expanding the framework for STEM education and for developing a diverse STEM workforce. The project emphasizes the need for science literacy for all citizens and the rights and responsibilities of all citizens to have a voice in decisions about the natural resources that sustain life in their community. By involving STEM professional community partners in co-educator teams with teachers, by working closely with and disseminating findings to educator networks, the project will improve STEM educator development in k-12, especially for those working with students underrepresented in STEM. The diversity of the project team and students to be trained will contribute to preparation of future generations of scientists.

Dr. Diemer will direct the quantitative data analyses, including psychometric evaluation of the survey instruments, imputation of missing data, and analyses of the hypothesized intervention impacts. His time will be devoted to statistical analyses, writing, and publication and presentation of these results, as well as contributing his substantive expertise regarding career development and civic engagement among marginalized youth.