Monday, May 14, 2012

Get mapped with MOST-Science!

This week's guest blog about MOST-Science is by Dr. Sandra Laursen of The University of Colorado Boulder.  Read on to discover how you can contribute to this important research and help advance the field of after school science! 

·     Fifth graders learn about wolf biology and predator-prey relationships, then help prepare meat to feed captive wolves at a wolf sanctuary….
·     Seventh-grade girls build and test rockets, then hold a contest to see how high their rockets will fly….
·     High school youth measure the water quality in a local creek and discover that illegal dumping is contaminating the water.  They report their find to local environmental authorities….

All who work with young people in out-of-school science and engineering experiences like these know that they can have a profound effect on the young people who participate.  But which experiences offer what benefits to youth? What program practices best support sustainable and effective programs?   Such questions drive a current research study called MOST-Science, underway by our team at the University of Colorado Boulder. 

Every year, thousands of young people attend summer camps, weekend workshops, and afterschool programs at community centers, libraries, and science centers, work as interns and volunteers at museums and laboratories, and participate in research projects at universities and laboratories.  The MOST-Science study is building a map of these science-focused programs, especially programs for youth in the middle and high school grades, and those where students work with each other on team projects or with the public.  We want to understand the breadth and depth of out-of-school science opportunities:

·     Where, when, and by whom are out-of-school science programs conducted?
·     What types of experiences do these programs offer to young people? 
Which experiences are especially effective in engaging youth and fostering their growth?
·     What kinds of students participate and why?
·     What do students gain from taking part?
For example, do students become interested in new science topics, or sustain their previous interests?  Are participants are more likely to go on to work in science and engineering? ...or to grow up to be responsible community members and science-literate citizens?

The answers to these questions will help to improve youth programs by sharing good ideas and practices.  Our research will also inform policy-makers and donors about the value of out-of-school science education...  perhaps even to create more opportunities for youth who do not have them now.

We are gathering data through documents, interviews, and the online MOST-Science Questionnaire.  We are now inviting leaders of out-of-school programs to complete the questionnaire and share with us some information about who participates in your programs; for how long and how often; and about the kinds of content, hands-on activities, career information, mentors and role models with which your participants interact.  

Everyone who completes a questionnaire will have a 1-in-15 chance to win a $50 gift certificate.  More importantly, however, study participants will alert our team to your organization and its programs, and help to inform funders, policy-makers, researchers and the public about the good work in this community and the needs that remain to be addressed.

To learn more, visit our web site or find MOSTscience on Facebook.

Sandra Laursen earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley and maintains interests in both research and practice in science education. As co-director of Ethnography & Evaluation Research (E&ER), she leads research and evaluation studies focusing on education and career paths in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Particular research interests include the underrepresentation of women and people of color in the sciences, professional socialization and career development of scientists, teacher professional development, and organizational change in higher education. She is also interested in inquiry-based teaching and learning, and the challenges of improving STEM education in and out of the classroom and across organizations.

No comments: