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Developing a new generation of collaborative scientists and citizens through popular media

September 1, 2023 - August 31, 2027 | Media and Technology

This project will focus on understanding how media can improve boys' and girls' perceptions of female scientists and engineers and increase children's understanding of mixed-gender collaborations in STEM. Two main products will be developed and disseminated. The first will be eight 11-minute episodes of the popular children's program, Elinor Wonders Why, which reaches 16.5 million viewers. This will be used as an intervention within a series of rigorous research studies and broadcast to audiences for public use and subsequent benefit. The second will be a game-based, Draw-a-Scientist, assessment in which 3-6 year old participants and their caregivers will create sticker-based scenes that include scientist or engineer avatars 'at work' in a variety of contexts in order to clarify young children's perceptions of science and engineering. This project has the potential to benefit society by modeling and celebrating mixed gender STEM collaborative work.

The project builds knowledge and understanding on gender-based STEM research and provides learnings for future ways of exploring the impact of youth perceptions in media. The project uses mixed methods research and an iterative design process that involves stakeholders, youth and their adult caretakers, and partnerships among university faculty, PBS station educators, and media developers to address these questions: To what degree do children perceive science as a gendered occupation? How do children and their caregivers perceive women in science? Do children perceive science as a collaborative process? Do children perceive science as important to the community? A second study will include (1) embedding the gamified assessment into a larger Elinor Wonders Why PBS digital game, (2) linking the assessment directly to the media via a digital throw transition, and (3) disseminating the intervention (episode) and the assessment (game) linked together for public engagement through social media, broadcast, and streaming.


Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL); Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR)
Award Number: 2314107
Funding Amount: $3,381,604.00


  • Sara Sweetman
    Principal Investigator
    University of Rhode Island
  • Daniel Whiteson
    Co-Principal Investigator
    University of California Irvine
  • Abdeltawab Hendawi
    Co-Principal Investigator
    University of Rhode Island
  • Jorge Cham
    Co-Principal Investigator
  • Resource Type: Projects | Project Descriptions
    Discipline: General STEM
    Audience: Families | Learning Researchers | Pre-K Children (0-5)
    Environment Type: Media and Technology | Broadcast Media
    Access and Inclusion: Women and Girls

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