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Creating Sustainable Community, Museum, and University Collaborations

September 1, 2023 - August 31, 2024 | Public Programs

Through increasing attention paid to out-of-school contexts, research is showing that powerful science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) meaning-making is possible when helping young people see the everyday practices that are situated within STEM domains. Museums and science centers have long been centers of public engagement with STEM; however, over that last few decades there has been growing importance of the need for museums to be relevant to their communities. This has spurred the recognition of the importance of doing work with, rather than for, communities and the need to create better mechanisms for developing meaningful partnerships. Thus, the project is designed to examine partnership building through a series of online and in-person workshops for museum and science center staff, community members (high school-aged youth), and university researchers. Through this year-long workshop series, three primary goals will be accomplished: a) understand what it means to build and foster ethical community partnerships between museums, local communities, and researchers; b) create the foundation for relationship building between participating partners for continued networking and collaboration beyond the workshop series; and c) create a generative collaborative space for sharing, exploring, and developing ideas on what it means to design, enact, and study culturally sustaining STEM youth programs in museums. Participants from museums and science centers in three major metropolitan areas of the United States (Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago) will learn from one another about how each serves their local populations and how to improve that service.

Grounded in Bang's community-based design research (CBDR), the project will engage museum educators and staff, current and alumni participants of youth museum programs, and university researchers around several questions of interest: How can museum staff, community members, and university researchers build a research partnership to open new possibilities for theorizing and actualizing culturally sustaining STEM learning? How can we develop multi-layered partnerships in local and distal geographical spaces? How do we consider diverse stakeholder goals that may be in tension, and translate them into goal-directed activities for mutual flourishing? What are other obstacles in including youth to design and develop research and development grants? How might we mitigate those obstacles? Teams in each city will be comprised of two museum staff, one youth program alumni, and three youth program participants from each of six museums/science centers along with four education/learning sciences researchers. The teams will participate in in-person workshops locally and virtually across locations. The project will adhere to three core principles to ensure equitable and ethical participation from all participants: (1) fostering relationship development; (2) power sharing and respectful decision making; and (3) identifying future proposed projects that ensure reciprocal benefits. Photovoice is selected as the core methodology to support ideating, sharing, and documenting the range of perspectives and experiences from the stakeholders. Narrative discourse analysis will be the primary approach to analyzing data from team meetings and workshops. The field will benefit from what the project learns about collaborating within and across geographic locations, how the participants create and share knowledge, and an outline of recommended next steps. At the end of the project, deliverables include a set of principles for more community-based and inclusive programming that all science centers and museums can use as well as new collaborations, including new possible research and development projects between the partners aimed at serving their communities.


Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 2314112
Funding Amount: $147,423.00


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    Principal Investigator
    Boston University
  • REVISE logo
    Principal Investigator
    Adler Planetarium
  • Resource Type: Projects | Project Descriptions
    Discipline: General STEM
    Audience: Educators/Teachers | Learning Researchers | Museum/ISE Professionals | Youth/Teen (up to 17)
    Environment Type: Museum and Science Center Programs

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