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2021 AISL-Funded Projects

In 2021, the National Science Foundation’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program awarded funding to a wide range of projects. The titles of these awards with links to their abstracts and the Principal Investigators’ names are listed alphabetically by project type. In 2021 that list includes: Broad Implementation, Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program, Conferences, Early-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER), Innovations in Development, Literature Review, Pilot and Feasibility Studies, Research in Service to Practice, Co-funded by the NSF Division of Polar Programs, and Co-funded by AISL and other NSF Programs.

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Broad Implementation

The Broad Implementation project type supports the expansion or reach of models, programs, technologies, assessments, resources, research, or systems that have a documented record of success, innovation, or evidence-based knowledge building. The focus is on making innovations or approaches succeed when they are implemented at a larger scale.

Broad Implementation: Expanding a Successful Model of Fully Virtual Professional Learning for Afterschool Educators

Sue Allen, Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance

Expanding a Model for Interactive Social Science Exhibits Presented in Outdoor Public Spaces

Shawn Lani, Exploratorium


Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program

The CAREER Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. These awards enable awardees to develop as outstanding researchers, and also as educators demonstrating commitment to teaching, learning, and dissemination of knowledge.

CAREER: Supporting Families’ Collective Agency as Learners in Science Centers and Museums through an Integrated Research and Practice Agenda

Susan Letourneau, New York Hall of Science

CAREER: Investigating Black Youths’ Engineering, Innovation, and Design Practices at the Intersection of Museum and Home/Family Learning

DeLean Tolbert Smith, Regents of the University of Michigan - Dearborn

CAREER: Redefining Scientific Literacy at the Community Level - Researching Science Learning using a Social Network Approach

Kirstin Busch, North Carolina State University



These projects bring together participants to address a question, issue, or topic for which collective engagement could advance field-wide thinking and approaches to learning. 

A conference to explore theories regarding how moral motives move people from STEM information learning to STEM-informed action

John Voiklis, Knology

A Workshop on Assessment and Evaluation Tools for Makerspaces

Peter Wardrip, University of Wisconsin-Madison

A Conference on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Citizen Science

Caren Cooper, North Carolina State University


Early-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER)

These exploratory projects are working in the early stages of untested, but potentially transformative, research ideas or approaches.

EAGER Investigating Barriers and Strategies to Increase HBCU Participation in STEM Education Research

Cynthia Trawick, Morehouse College


Innovations in Development

These projects focus on and leverage the development of a product, model, tool, or resource to better understand and inform practice. Innovations take many forms and occur at different scales depending on the nature of what is being innovated (e.g. exhibits, media products, after school programs, technologies, assessments, resources, or systems for an area of STEM learning in informal environments).

AI Behind Virtual Humans: Communicating the Capabilities and Impact of Artificial Intelligence to the Public through an Interactive Virtual Human Exhibit

Ning Wang, University of Southern California

Seeing the World through a Mathematical Lens: A Place-Based Mobile App for Creating Math Walks

Candace Walkington, Southern Methodist University

Ingenieros Ingeniosos (Ingenious Engineers): Connecting Latinx Youths' Workplace Practices with Engineering through Out-of-School Time Programs

Amy Wilson-Lopez, Utah State University

Building Quantum Information Science Intuition through Digital Games

Diana Franklin, University of Chicago; Danielle Harlow, University of California-Santa Barbara

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) Girls in a Robotics Leadership Project

Harry Cheng, University of California-Davis

Engaging Multicultural Audiences through Inclusive STEM content on YouTube


Cultivating Tomorrow’s Engineers through the Entertainment & Hospitality Landscape

Emma Regentova, University of Nevada Las Vegas

Intercultural Science Communication Research and Training to Broaden Participation Among Historically Minoritized Science Practitioners

Bruno Takahashi, Michigan State University; Sunshine Menezes, University of Rhode Island

Collaborative Research: Intergenerational Learning, Deliberation, and Decision Making for Changing Lands and Waters

Filiberto Barajas-Lopez, University of Washington; Megan Bang, Northwestern University; Anna Lees, Western Washington University

Building on Latinx families' strengths to model and promote informal science learning through a culturally responsive telenovela series

Joy Kennedy, Education Development Center

Using Media and Texting to Foster STEM Learning in Low-Income and Latinx Families

Sandra Sheppard, WNET

Leveraging community-based organizations to develop and study Native Hawaiian ethos-driven ('Āina-based) environmental science activities

Lui Hokoana, University of Hawaii

Weaving Indigenous Identity, Cultural Values, and Environmental Science Together for Sustainable Tribal Land Management and Resource Career Pathways

Nakia Williamson, Nez Perce Tribe

Developing Conversational Videos to Support Children's STEM Learning and Engagement

Mark Warschauer, University of California-Irvine

WaterMarks: An art/science framework for community-engaged learning around water and water management in an urban area

Ryan Holifield, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Youth-Directed Math Collaboratories and Mathematical Identity: African American Youth as Co-Learners, Co-Educators and Co-Researchers

Jay Gillen, Young People's Project, Inc.

The Blue Whales Project: Engaging audiences in adaptation related science content through a giant screen film and educational activities in science centers and rural libraries

Charles Kopczak, California Science Center Foundation

Ice Worlds: A Giant Screen Film and Outreach Project

Deborah Raksany, Giant Screen Films

Collaborative Research: Creating a Mechanism for Youth to Document Out-Of-School-Time STEM Learning as a Means for Expanding Educational Pathways

Nichole Pinkard, Northwestern University; Katie Taylor, University of Washington; Barry Fishman, Regents of the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor


Literature Review, Syntheses, or Meta-analyses

These projects focus on a question, issue, or topic of critical importance to the researchers and practitioners invested in learning outside of formal education contexts. 

A Systematic Review of STEM Learning and Social-Emotional Development in Out of School Time

Gil Noam, McLean Hospital


Pilots and Feasibility Studies

These projects offer opportunities for practitioners and researchers to investigate issues in and approaches to informal STEM learning that include high risk strategies or methods that need exploration to inform the potential for future research and development. 

STEM Webcams as Tools for Learning and Education

Sarah Schulwitz, The Peregrine Fund

A Culturally-Responsive Maker Program Designed to Develop the STEM Interest, Self-Efficacy and Science Identity of Black Girls

LaShawnda Lindsay, Wellesley College

Accessible Oceans: Exploring Ocean Data through Sound

Amy Bower, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Diálogos: Harnessing Latinx Community Cultural Wealth to Support Executive Function in Early Childhood through Family Engineering Experiences

Smirla Ramos-Montanez, TERC Inc

Community Collaboration as a Culturally-Relevant Approach to Climate Change Programming and Mitigation

Patricia Townsend, Washington State University


Research in Service to Practice

These projects focus on research that advances knowledge and the evidence base for practices, assumptions, broadening participation, or emerging educational arrangements in STEM learning in informal environments, including the science of science communication.

STEM-based Making for Youth, Families, and Communities

Edna Tan, University of North Carolina Greensboro

Black SciGirls: Investigating a Culturally Responsive Media-enriched Approach to STEM Teaching and Learning

Rita Karl, Twin Cities Public Television

Examining the Efficacy of a Co-Designed Culturally Sustaining STEM Learning Ecosystems Model for Youth, Their Families, and Informal Educators in Rural Communities

Christina Cid, The High Desert Museum

Breaking Stereotypes through Culturally Relevant Storytelling: Optimizing Out-of-school Time STEM Experiences for Elementary-Age Girls to Strengthen their STEM Interest Pathways

Tricia Zucker, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Applying a complex systems perspective to investigate the relationship between choreography and agent-based modeling as tools for scientific sense-making

Dionne Champion, University of Florida

Embodied Physics: Using the Lenses of Physics and Dance to Investigate Learning, Engagement, and Identity Development for Black and Latinx Youth

Folashade Cromwell Solomon, TERC Inc

Modeling Zoos and Aquariums as Inclusive Communities of Science: Developing a framework of inclusive practices for broadening the participation of autistic individuals

Kelly Riedinger, Oregon State University

Leveraging the Power of Reflection and Visual Representation in Middle-Schoolers' Learning During and After an Informal Science Experience

David Uttal, Northwestern University; Amanda Dickes, Gulf of Maine Research Institute; Catherine Haden, Loyola University of Chicago

Urban Youth Participation in Community and Citizen Science

Kevin Cuff, University of California-Berkeley

Research Synthesis of Effective Inclusion Practices for Neurodiverse K-12 Learners in Informal STEM Learning Contexts

Ronda Jenson, Northern Arizona University


Co-funded by AISL and other NSF Programs

Collaborative Research: Advancing language research and outreach in a language museum

Charlotte Vaughn, University of Maryland, College Park

A Workshop to Synthesize Findings from Education Research Conducted During the Pandemic: Emerging Lessons From COVID-19

Vanessa Peters, Digital Promise Global

Workshop for Writing Grants for Early Career Scholars in STEM and Learning Sciences Focused on Racial Equity

Christopher Wright, Drexel University

SCC-PG: Closed-loop Intervention to Promote a Supportive and Interactive Environment around Children

Ou Bai, Florida International University

Utilizing the Library System and Virtual Reality Learning Experiences To Engage Rural and LatinX Communities in Polar Research

Kevin Ponto, University of Wisconsin-Madison




Posted by Aya Rothwell