1. Heather Zimmerman
  2. http://sites.psu.edu/heatherzimmerman/
  3. Associate Professor of Education
  4. STEM Pillars: Supporting Rural Communities with Science Stories, Experts, and Inquiry Activities
  5. http://sites.psu.edu/augmentedlearning/about-us/stem-pillars/
  6. Penn State University
  1. Michele Crowl
  2. Executive Director
  3. STEM Pillars: Supporting Rural Communities with Science Stories, Experts, and Inquiry Activities
  4. http://sites.psu.edu/augmentedlearning/about-us/stem-pillars/
  5. Discovery Space
  1. Katharine Grills
  2. Project Manager
  3. STEM Pillars: Supporting Rural Communities with Science Stories, Experts, and Inquiry Activities
  4. http://sites.psu.edu/augmentedlearning/about-us/stem-pillars/
  5. Penn State University
  1. Susan Land
  2. http://sites.psu.edu/susanland
  3. Associate Professor of Education
  4. STEM Pillars: Supporting Rural Communities with Science Stories, Experts, and Inquiry Activities
  5. http://sites.psu.edu/augmentedlearning/about-us/stem-pillars/
  6. Penn State University
  1. Lucy McClain
  2. Science and Education Program Director
  3. STEM Pillars: Supporting Rural Communities with Science Stories, Experts, and Inquiry Activities
  4. http://sites.psu.edu/augmentedlearning/about-us/stem-pillars/
  5. Penn State University, Shaver's Creek Environmental Center
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Heather Zimmerman

    Heather Zimmerman

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 07:56 a.m.

    Welcome to the STEM Pillars project!  We conducting design-based research to understand how to develop programs for small museums and libraries in order to help rural families make connections to important concepts and practices in science. We are designing five one-hour programs that use an adapted version of project-based learning and family-focused discussion prompts. To accomplish our work, we created a partnership between a College of Education, two small museums, six public libraries serving rural communities, and STEM professionals from private businesses, governmental agencies, non-profit organizations, and university research labs.   We are glad to answer questions about working with STEM professionals as program facilitators, our partnership, how we adapted project-based learning, our five curricula, the socio-cultural theory we use to orient our work, and our research design.

  • Icon for: Ellis Bell

    Ellis Bell

    Researcher
    May 13, 2019 | 09:49 a.m.

    This is great outreach. You have 5 quite different projects involved. How much "training" of the scientists helping with presentation is involved

     
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    Katharine Grills
    Heather Zimmerman
  • Icon for: Heather Zimmerman

    Heather Zimmerman

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 11:37 a.m.

    Great question, Ellis.  Over the past three years, we've worked with our partnering scientists and engineers in different ways.  We started by selecting people who all had prior outreach experience, yet, we found that they needed additional supports to facilitate the programs in the libraries and museums. More specifically, the scientists and engineers weren't used to teach in a dialogical way where families talk to each other. The STEM professionals were often more comfortable using slides and lecture-based pedagogies. So, our strategy was to consult with scientists and engineers as we were designing the program, then again once the curricula were designed, and then again after they lead their first workshop. Meeting and working together was key to get to a common understanding. For instance, we found we were using many of the same words and concepts, but we had different meanings for these ideas. So in the end, we found multiple meetings before and after the workshops -- plus designing our later version of the curricula to have "facilitation tips" helped.  

  • Icon for: Elysa Corin

    Elysa Corin

    Facilitator
    May 13, 2019 | 09:57 a.m.

    It was wonderful to see in your video that 1/3 of the participating families have come back to attend more workshops at the libraries.  What a great result!  Do you happen to know if the families are also continuing to explore the workshop topics together at home?  Have you thought about providing some suggestions or supports to encourage the families to continue their learning after the workshop experience with the scientists has ended?

     
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    Brooks Mitchell
    Katharine Grills
    Heather Zimmerman
  • Icon for: Heather Zimmerman

    Heather Zimmerman

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 11:40 a.m.

    Thanks, Elysa.  We did provide a take-home bookmark or information about other related activities. Plus, at some programs, the children's librarians and youth services staff put out books related to our topic.  While some families did say they were going to do these activities at home, we weren't able to track them at home with our research methodology. A follow-up survey or a way to get back in touch with them would be great in the future!

     
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    Elysa Corin
  • Icon for: William Spitzer

    William Spitzer

    Facilitator
    May 13, 2019 | 03:03 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing this project, it looks like a great way to build on the capacity of rural libraries to engage people in the community as well as local expertise in "applied" science that is relevant in rural areas.

    I was curious to learn more about the workshops themselves. How long are they? What kinds of driving questions are you able to explore in that format? In addition to providing scaffolding/support for the technical experts, what role do the library staff play? And, how does the library experience connect to the rest of the "learning ecosystem"?

    Finally, it would be helpful to hear more about how you are measuring impacts.

    Thanks,
    Billy

     
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    Katharine Grills
    Heather Zimmerman
  • Icon for: Heather Zimmerman

    Heather Zimmerman

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 04:07 p.m.

    Hello, William, thanks for asking about our workshops. 

    The science and engineering workshops are between 60-75 minutes.  We use a simplified driving question and adapted the project-based learning project due to the short time frame.  For instance, our STEM professionals engage families in questions such as "How do astronomer classify galaxies?" and "How do bumblebees work together in a colony?". 

    The librarians helped us craft the program, pick the topics, and align with the interests of their communities.  This way the librarians provide help craft the programs to fit into their communities' learning ecosystem. Timewise, the involvement of librarians varies; in some partnering libraries, there is a full-time children's librarian, but in most libraries, the youth services staff members are part-time. So, we adapt our program based on the needs, time, and resources of each library in order to reflect final workshop products that are adaptable to many different library situations. 

    To get at the impact of the program, we use a video-based research methodology to examine how families talk about science together.  We code learners' videos across all workshops as an overview of the program as well as go in-depth in case study analyses.  Finally, we also employ a short survey at the end of the program. 

  • Icon for: William Spitzer

    William Spitzer

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2019 | 10:59 a.m.

    Heather, thanks for providing all the additional details, this is really helpful in understanding your approach. As your evaluation results become available, I hope you will share them with the informal science field on www.informalscience.org!

  • Icon for: Margaret Glass

    Margaret Glass

    Facilitator
    May 13, 2019 | 04:45 p.m.

    I appreciate the asset-based approach you have for the various elements of the project – from the rural community setting, to librarians, to the scientists and engineers that you have involved. It sounds like you offer these STEM professionals some very practical and useful support in terms of pedagogy and facilitation tips. Are you capturing any of the impact that this experience may have on these scientists and engineers? Are they more likely to engage in other outreach, or are they enjoying any new social capital in the community?

     

    Thanks!

    Margaret

     
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    Katharine Grills
    Heather Zimmerman
  • Icon for: Heather Zimmerman

    Heather Zimmerman

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 10:13 a.m.

    Thanks, Margaret, for this question!  We are still analyzing these data (when possible, we conducted interviews with the STEM professionals after their workshops in addition to the videotaped workshops, and we are now swinging back to conduct end-of-project interviews with them too).  We have received feedback from some of our experts that they are both more willing to participate in the future, and in one case, that one partner wants to redo her team's outreach to more fully align to these learning sciences/informal learning theories.  We are going to do a more systemic look at our data and see how common these intentions for new kinds of future involvement are. 

     In the meantime, we do have one open-access article in the journal International Journal of Science Education: Family connections to local science issues: how scientists use questions to engage families in personally-relevant learning during science-themed workshops.  (Open-access means it is free to download, without a subscription to the journal.)  In this analysis, led by Lucy McClain, our team looked at how the question prompts (for the families) that we designed into the curricula were taken up by a subset of our STEM professionals.   This analysis allowed us to redesign some of our curricula and "training" meetings with scientists. 

  • Icon for: Margaret Glass

    Margaret Glass

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2019 | 12:32 p.m.

    Thanks for the response - and the extra resource. I look forward to following your project results.

    Margaret

  • May 13, 2019 | 10:16 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing your work!  Would love to hear about how you adapt NGSS into the lessons.  I love the presentation of phenomena and the involvement of parents.  Do you have a parent outreach plan? 

     
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    Katharine Grills
    Heather Zimmerman
  • Icon for: Heather Zimmerman

    Heather Zimmerman

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 10:15 a.m.

    Hi Rebecca, thanks for this question about parent involvement.  All of the workshops required an adult and youth to work together, so rather than parent outreach, we designed for parent-child interaction from the start. This design intention was supported by our library and museum partners who see parents wanting to be active learning partners with their children. 

     
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    Rebecca Grella, Ph.D.
  • May 14, 2019 | 10:28 p.m.

    Great video! It's wonderful to see another organization involved in bringing STEM learning to small and rural libraries. In your project, are library staff leading the STEM facilitation or are they working with subject matter experts? 

     
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    Heather Zimmerman
    Katharine Grills
  • Icon for: Katharine Grills

    Katharine Grills

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 04:47 p.m.

    Hi Brooks, thank you for your question! The programs are designed to be facilitated by subject matter experts. Our library and museum partners have played an integral part behind the scene, helping us to design the programs to suit the needs of the rural communities we are working within. 

     
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    Heather Zimmerman
    Brooks Mitchell
  • Icon for: Michelle Sedberry

    Michelle Sedberry

    Policymaker
    May 15, 2019 | 09:32 a.m.

    Is this program available in Texas?

     
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    Heather Zimmerman
    Katharine Grills
  • Icon for: Katharine Grills

    Katharine Grills

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 04:50 p.m.

    Hi Michelle, thank you for your question! We are in the final stages of collecting data on this research project and are working on finalizing the curricula for publication, so the programs are not available quite yet. We are planning on making these programs available for public use later this year, likely sometime in the fall, so please keep us in mind if these programs are of interest to you! 

     
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    Heather Zimmerman
  • May 15, 2019 | 10:56 a.m.

    I love the use of libraries. In what way, if at all, are librarians integrated into this program? 

     
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    Heather Zimmerman
    Brooks Mitchell
  • Icon for: Katharine Grills

    Katharine Grills

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 04:57 p.m.

    Hi Jason, thank you for your question! Our library and museum partners have played an integral role in the development of these programs. We have repeatedly met with local rural librarians and museum directors in order to ensure that the curricula we developed met the needs of the communities we were going to work within. Their input has been invaluable in shaping the programming content. 

    Once the programs are available to the public (sometime this fall), it is our intention for librarians to be able to use these programs as a resource, through which they can make connections with STEM professionals and provide STEM content to their community.

     
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    Heather Zimmerman
  • Icon for: Kelli Paul

    Kelli Paul

    Researcher
    May 15, 2019 | 02:47 p.m.

    Interesting project and video!

    I was wondering if you could talk more about the role of the STEM professionals. What does their interaction look like during the sessions? The video seemed to highlight interactions within families, so I was unsure as to whether interactions with STEM professionals was similar. Or, do STEM professionals introduce the topic and get families started and then interact minimally when families have questions? Finally, is the role of the STEM professional primarily to provide expertise (e.g., knowledge), or do they also provide information about their career, experiences, etc. (e.g., more of a role model type role)?

    Thanks!

     
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    Heather Zimmerman
    Katharine Grills
  • Icon for: Katharine Grills

    Katharine Grills

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 05:10 p.m.

    Hi Kelli, thank you for your question about the role of the STEM professionals. That is a very important component of the project that is not quite as highlighted in this video, as you noted. The STEM professionals introduce the topic and the content, but they also share their personal origin story of how they became interested in their STEM area of expertise. Most of the time, it is a story from their childhood. For example, one meteorologist involved in the project would share how an early experience with tornados in his hometown shaped his interest in meteorology as a potential career.

    In addition, the STEM professionals are encouraged to walk around and engage the families as they complete activities, and to engage the workshop participants as a group during sharing periods. The design of the programs does encourage a higher level of interaction within families, but the STEM professionals do interact throughout the workshop with families.

    One of our overall intentions with the STEM professional as facilitator was to illustrate to children and their families that scientists are everyday people in the community just like they are, so they act as a role model while also delivering content.

     
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    Heather Zimmerman
  • Icon for: Kelli Paul

    Kelli Paul

    Researcher
    May 16, 2019 | 10:16 a.m.

    Are STEM professionals given that format to follow then (e.g., introduce topic/content, share their story, etc), or is this something that they have done spontaneously? Also, have you found that children and families remember or relate to these personal stories?

    I ask because the project I am working on is trying to disentangle what it is about interactions with a role model that is most influential to students. So I was interested in whether this is something you have explored in your project as well.  

     
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    Heather Zimmerman
  • Icon for: Heather Zimmerman

    Heather Zimmerman

    Lead Presenter
    May 17, 2019 | 09:12 a.m.

    Thanks for the question, Kelli!  We invite the stem professionals to develop their own story from their perspective (without following a format); however, then we have the workshops designed as "educative curricula." (See https://www.collaborativeclassroom.org/blog/what-is-an-educative-curriculum/ for more details on this approach.)  The original educative curriculum idea was to support teachers to learn more about instructional strategies and we are adapting this idea that be an educative curriculum that includes the kinds of facilitation techniques that engineers and scientists need to know to better teach families.

     
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    Kelli Paul
  • Icon for: Amy Bolton

    Amy Bolton

    Informal Educator
    May 16, 2019 | 10:22 p.m.

    This is a great project! I am very interested in what you think the long-term potential is for a program like this. Do you see issues with capacity building given that a STEM professional is needed for the program?

     
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    Heather Zimmerman
  • Icon for: Heather Zimmerman

    Heather Zimmerman

    Lead Presenter
    May 17, 2019 | 08:52 a.m.

    Great question, Amy! One of the reasons that we designed the program the way we did was to build capacity in rural communities for these types of family workshops. In many rural communities, some people are heavily trained in science or engineering working from a distance for tech firms; working for farms, ranches, or agribusinesses; working for land-grant universities; working on experimental field plots; and who have started or work for in small businesses.  So, while it does take time to build partnerships and capacity of the scientists, engineers, and other professionals to facilitate programs with an interactive, conversational teaching style, the curricula that we developed, in partnership with the libraries and STEM professionals, can support rural engineers and scientists to connect families to their STEM disciplines and explain their careers. There are other models to do this work of connecting families and STEM, and in that spirit, we hope that the research from our project will provide principles on how to enrich STEM learning experiences in communities. 

  • Icon for: Deanna Privette

    Deanna Privette

    i3 STEM Grant Coordinator
    May 17, 2019 | 01:10 p.m.

    What a fabulous program....making the learning a family event.  I can imagine families having very rich conversations after the event because you're educating the whole family.  In addition, this undoubtedly leads to a better support system for the child.  Thanks for sharing!

     
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    Heather Zimmerman
  • Icon for: Heather Zimmerman

    Heather Zimmerman

    Lead Presenter
    May 20, 2019 | 08:48 a.m.

    Thanks, Deanna!  We are currently analyzing the families' talk and we'll be able to say more soon about this.  We'll be presenting two analyses (one on the engineering workshop, one on the astronomy workshop) at the upcoming Interaction Design and Children conference in June . . . if you are interested in the research findings on the family talk, let us know.  We can email you the papers in mid-June.

  • Icon for: Martha Merson

    Martha Merson

    Researcher
    May 19, 2019 | 11:46 a.m.

     Hi, I wondered about reactions to topics like water quality that might not be neutral. I know near fracking areas, water quality is an issue. Pollinators are having such a hard time. This isn't necessarily a happy story. Are these issues coming up? Have you prepared workshop leaders and librarians on how to address them if they do?

    Martha

  • Icon for: Heather Zimmerman

    Heather Zimmerman

    Lead Presenter
    May 20, 2019 | 08:34 a.m.

    Hi Martha, thanks for asking this question -- it is important to think about how these workshops fit into people's experiences.  The STEM Pillars workshops were not only designed to be taught by scientists and engineers in rural/ small libraries and museums, but they were also designed in conversation with them.  The water workshops were taught primarily by conservation district staff members who engage the general public in these topics regularly and the same with the pollinator scientists who work with farmers, growers, beekeepers, hobbyists, gardeners, and the general public at large outreach events. That said, fracking hasn't come up in our water workshop  -- it focuses on green building and landscaping --  but, the pollinator decline has come up, primarily when parents ask questions.  The STEM professionals, in this case, focus on what science knows and doesn't know -- and how they are addressing figuring out what we don't know.  We do have information available on changes individual families can make in regard to pollinators (native plants, avoiding certain lawn chemicals, creating habitat for bees).  The librarians, in many libraries, also put out books for the youths and adults on related topics.  So, in sum, our focus has been on providing a hands-on experience with a STEM professional that provides a connection to the topic, some information about the topic, and some next steps for individual families to take.  We haven't gotten into civic engagement or collective actions that can be implemented by larger community groups -- but that seems like a good next step for the field.  How have you engaged these ideas in your own work?

  • Icon for: Jessica Andrews

    Jessica Andrews

    Project Director
    May 20, 2019 | 11:44 a.m.

    Hi, this looks like a great project. Like many, I'm curious about the role of the librarians and the STEM professionals. Do they co-lead the family workshops together, or is it more than librarians do the legwork in setting up the program and then the STEM professionals lead the actual events? If it is a co-leading situation, what kind of advance planning or prep have you found helpful in facilitating this? I look forward to reading more about your project as your research wraps up!

  • Icon for: Heather Zimmerman

    Heather Zimmerman

    Lead Presenter
    May 20, 2019 | 01:27 p.m.

    Thanks, for the question, Jessica. The librarians and museum educators set up the programs to fit into their normal family offerings,  and then the STEM professionals lead the actual workshops.  Our team has been working with the STEM professions to prepare as well as wrote the curricula for them (i.e., it has less content presented since this is based on their workshop and more facilitation tips since many have not offered project-based, question-driven workshops before.  

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.