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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2023
  2. 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
  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. Research on interactions between caregivers and children have long been reported in science museum experiences. However, the interactions between caregivers and children in home environments are rarely investigated. By comparison, research on the experience of the engineering design challenge activities in a family context is even less. This case study aimed to examine interactions of two families in their home as they engaged with engineering design challenge kits that have the potential to support children’s foundational understanding of STEM concepts. Using social-cultural constructivism as a lens, about 370 minutes of video data was analyzed. Data coding revealed three types of interactions that facilitated children’s understanding of STEM concepts: teaching, build up, and synthesized moments. These three moments were interdependent but included different emphasis of caregivers’ and children’s engagement. Although there is a limitation of this study to generalize the findings, our results contribute to understand how caregivers and children play with the materials, tools, and their ideas in their home environments and how caregivers used different facilitation approaches without any training prior to engaging with the engineering kits.
  5. Caregivers are one of the most significant influences in their children’s engineering engagement at a young age; however, the roles caregivers can play in supporting their children is less understood. Employing an intrinsic case study on a five-month engineering program conducted in an out-of-school context, we illustrate the multiple and different roles that three caregivers enacted, and the contextual factors of the program that influenced and shaped their role enactment. We observed 12 dynamic, complex, and evolving roles that caregivers endorsed to support their child throughout the engineering design process. These roles were situated within preexisting rules and expectations as caregivers while also developing an understanding of the rules and expectations of an engineer through their social interactions with volunteer engineers and makers. This work contributes to our understanding of how to create environments to enable caregivers to best support their children’s STEM learning process.
  6. The objective of this three-year National Science Foundation’s Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (NSF-ITEST) project is to develop, implement, and refine a program for integrating engineering design practices with an emphasis on emerging technologies (i.e., making, DIY electronics) into home environments of families with a child in grade 3-6 from under-resourced communities. This project has two components. Each family (1) defines a home- or community-based problem and creates a prototype to improve the lives of self or others; and (2) engages in low-cost engineering design kits in their home environments. This paper presents findings from two years of interview data, as well video data collected in project sessions and home environments from 21 families. Results are presented as highlights of finding from on-going analyses to address three research aims.