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  1. Our NSF-funded project, CoBuild19, sought to address the large-scale shift to at-home learning based on nationwide school closures that occurred during COVID-19 through creating making/STEM activities for families with children in grades K-6. Representing multiple organizations, our CoBuild19 project team developed approximately 60 STEM activities that make use of items readily available in most households. From March through June 2020, we produced and shared videos and activity guides, averaging 3+ new activities per week. Initially, the activities consisted of whatever team members could pull together, but we soon created weekly themes with associated activities, including Design and Prototype Week, Textiles Week, Social and Emotional Learning Week, and one week which highlighted kids sharing cooking and baking recipes for other kids. All activities were delivered fully online. To do so, our team started a Facebook group on March 13, 2020. Membership grew to 3490 followers by April 1st, to 4245 by May 1st, and leveled off at approximately 5100 members since June 2020. To date, 22 of our videos have over 1000 views, with the highest garnering 23K views. However, we had very little participation in the form of submitted videos, images, or text from families sharing what they were creating,more »limiting our possible analyses. While we had some initial participation by members, as the FB group grew, substantive evidence of participation faded. To better understand this drop, we polled FB group members about their use of the activities. Responses (n = 101) were dominated by the option, "We are glad to know the ideas are available, but we are not using much" (49%), followed by, "We occasionally do activities" (35%). At this point, we had no data about home participation, so we decided to experiment with different approaches. Our next efforts focused on conducting virtual maker/STEM camps. Leveraging the content produced in the first months of CoBuild19, we hosted two rounds of Camp CoBuild by the end of July, serving close to 100 campers. The camps generated richer data in the form of recorded Zoom camp sessions where campers made synchronously with educators and youth-created Flipgrid videos where campers shared their process and products for each activity. We also collected post-camp surveys and some caregiver interviews. Preliminary analyses have focused on the range of participant engagement and which malleable factors may be associated with deeper engagement. Initial feedback from caregivers indicated that their children gained confidence to experiment with simple materials through engaging in these activities. This project sought to fill what we perceived as a developing need in the community at a large scale (e.g., across the US). Although we have not achieved the level of success we expected, the project achieved quick growth that took us in a different direction than we originally intended. Overall, we created content that educators and families can use to engage kids with minimal materials. Additionally, we have a few models of extended engagement (e.g., Camp CoBuild) that we can develop further into future offerings.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  2. Early in the pandemic we gathered a group of educators to create and share at-home educational opportunities for families to design and make STEAM projects while at home. As this effort, CoBuild19, continued, we decided to extend our offerings to include basic computer programming. To accomplish this, we created an offering called the Design with Code Club (DwCC). We structured DwCC to be different from other common coding offerings in that we wanted the main focus to be on kids designing solutions to problems that might include the use of technology and coding. We were purposeful in this decision for two main reasons. First, we wanted to make our coding club more interesting to girls, where previous research demonstrates their interest in designing solutions. Second, we wanted this effort to be different from most programming instruction, where coding activities use programming as the core of instruction and application in authentic and student-selected contexts plays a secondary role. DwCC was set up so that each of the first four weeks had a different larger challenge that was COVID-19 related and sessions unfolded with alternating smaller challenges, discussion around design and coding instruction that would develop their skills and knowledge of micro:bitmore »capabilities. We culminated DwCC with an open-ended project where the kids were given the challenge of coming up with their own problem for which they might incorporate micro:bit as part of the solution. Because we were doing all of this online, we used the micro:bit interface through Microsoft MakeCode, which includes a functional simulator. From our experiences we realized that simulations are not as enticing as physical computing with a tangible device, so we set up an incentive where youth who participated in at least three sessions of the club would receive a physical micro:bit. We advertised DwCC through Facebook and twitter and had nearly 200 families register their kids to participate. In the end, a total of 52 micro:bits were sent to youth participants. Based on this success, we sought to expand the effort and increase accessibility for groups that are traditionally underrepresented in STEM. In spring 2021, we offered a Girls DwCC. This was a redesigned version of the club where the focus was even more on problem-solving through design. The club was run by all women, including one from the US, an Industrial Engineer from Mexico and a computer programmer from Albania. More than 50 girls from 17 countries participated in the club! We are working on another version of GDwCC that will be offered in Spanish and focus on Latina girls in the US and Mexico. In the most recent iteration of DwCC we are working with an educator at a school for deaf students to create a version of the club that works for their students. We are doing some modification of activities and recreating videos that involve sign language interpretation. In this presentation we will report on the variants of DwCC, results from participant feedback surveys and plans for future versions.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  3. Caregivers are critical to children’s academic and social growth and development. As an adult who provides direct care and support, caregivers play a large role in what concepts and experiences children are exposed to, engage with, and pursue. A growing body of research has highlighted how caregiver influence manifests within out-of-school contexts, yet less is known about the impact of out-of-school learning and engagement from the perspectives of caregivers themselves. This study explored experiences and shifts in caregiver perceptions of shifts within themselves and their children through participation in an out-of-school home-based engineering program. Data were derived from post-program interviews with over 20 participating caregivers from three years of the program. Results illuminate various experiences and shifts in caregiver self-perception and understanding of their children’s learning and development. Specifically, these shifts included enhanced self-reflection and introspection, positive shifts in caregiver interactions with children, and observed increases in self-efficacy and complex thinking within children. Findings contribute to a growing body of knowledge of family engagement and the distinct perspective that caregivers can provide on children’s learning. Further, shifts in caregiver self-concept and self-efficacy in engaging in engineering content make a unique contribution and provide insights into ways that caregiver engagement inmore »out-of-school learning might be adapted to incorporate more accessible learning opportunities, especially those that occur in the home.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  4. Engineering outreach programs have the potential to significantly influence precollege youth; university-led engineering programs reach approximately 600,000 K-12 students each year in the United States. Despite the prevalence of these outreach programs, little is known about the nature of the discursive interactions between outreach ambassadors and participating youths and the ways in which these interactions support youths’ progress in engineering. Understanding the ways in which outreach ambassadors support youth to learn engineering is critical to furthering the effectiveness of these programs and contributes to greater understanding about how to support engineering in K-12 settings. Often, these programs are facilitated by undergraduate and graduate engineering ambassadors who themselves are developing as engineers and educators. In the context of an engineering outreach program for elementary students, this study examines the teaching moves of outreach ambassadors, adds to the understanding of their teaching moves, and offers preliminary conjectures about the impact of these moves on students. This study asks: What kinds of discursive teaching moves do outreach ambassadors enact when interacting with elementary student design teams?  In the focal outreach program, pairs of university students facilitated engineering design challenges in elementary classrooms for one hour each week throughout the school year. We selectively sampled and analyzed four such sessionsmore »in four fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms. We used discourse analysis and a lens of ambitious teaching to classify the teaching moves employed during interactions between ambassadors and small groups of students who were engaged in engineering design challenges. We identified a range of moves, including ambitious, inclusive, and conservative teaching moves, across the four sessions. From class to class, we observed variation in distribution of each category of teaching move and we hypothesize that activity design and outreach ambassador orientations toward teaching influence this variation.   Particularly promising for engineering teaching and learning, we observed ambassadors making bids to elicit student ideas, pressing for evidence-based explanations, and revoicing students’ design ideas. These moves are characteristic of ambitious instruction and have the potential to support students to engage in reflective decision-making and to guide students toward productive, more expert engineering design practices. Our analysis suggests that engineering outreach ambassadors notice and respond to students’ ideas, engaging in ambitious teaching practices which can be expected to support elementary students in making progress in engineering design. This analysis of outreach ambassadors’ discursive interactions with elementary student design teams adds to the growing conversation of ambitious instruction in engineering.« less