Lessons from the field: A Collection of Case Studies

Explore our growing series of case studies highlighting the essential role family engagement plays in successful STEM programming.

Early Wins and Lessons Learned: How the Bay Area STEM Ecosystem Engages Families

In this case study, Drs. Kekelis and Sammet highlight the work of the Bay Area STEM Ecosystem, which aims to increase equity and access to STEM learning opportunities in underserved communities. First, Kekelis and Sammet lay out the problems the Ecosystem is trying to solve and give a high level overview of the Bay Area STEM Ecosystem’s approach to addressing them. Then, based on field observations and interviews, Kekelis and Sammet highlight both the successes and some missed opportunities from the first collaborative program of this Ecosystem.  Both the successes of The Bay Area STEM Ecosystem–as well as the partners’ willingness to share and examine where they have room for refinements –illustrate the exemplary practice, leadership, and growth mindset of this group.

STEM Careers + Families: Learning from Centers and Museums

In today’s fast-paced, entertainment-focused world, the very best museums do so much more than provide rainy day activities that engage in the moment but lead nowhere. These institutions lay the groundwork for long-term interest and persistence in STEM. In this case study, Drs. Kekelis and Sammet showcase the work of the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). These museums are engaging families in innovative ways and making career exploration an important piece of their mission. Drs. Kekelis and Sammet interviewed leadership from NYSCI and OMSI to learn about their efforts and lessons learned in promoting career exploration with families. Four strategies emerged from conversations with  NYSCI and OMSI for how museums can empower families and open doors to their children’s future in STEM.

Expanding Access and Inclusion in STEM through Culturally Responsive Family Engagement

What can we do differently to improve access to and inclusion in STEM? Include families! The research is clear and consistent: Families are among the biggest influence on youth outcomes, including in STEM, and especially for girls. Importantly, families don’t need to be STEM experts themselves or to have a STEM background in order to support youth in STEM. Informal STEM programs are perfectly placed to support parents and caregivers to encourage, broker and navigate.

Culturally responsive family engagement is both a strategy and a process that maximizes the unique strengths, interests, needs, and complexities of communities who are underrepresented in STEM. As an approach to equitable and inclusive education, culturally responsive STEM is sensitive to the historical disparity of power and privilege between providers and program participants, particularly with respect to cultural differences across race, language, religion, geography, language and nationality. Why is it important? Culturally responsive family engagement intentionally taps into family culture and history to develop curriculum that is engaging and meaningful.

In this case study, Drs. Sammet and Kekelis highlight best practices and lessons learned from two programs – Techbridge Girls and Code Next – that serve communities with important cultural differences across race/ethnicity, religion, geography, language and immigration status. This case study offers insights for both practitioners and funders of STEM programs.

Family Engagement: Taking it to the Next Level

How can organizations integrate parent education into their STEM programs? With support, parents can learn to engage in positive interactions that spark and maintain their child’s interest in STEM. In this case study, Drs. Kekelis and Sammet highlight the Greene Scholars Program and Digital Youth Divas—two programs that are exemplary in their approach to empowering parents with research, education, and resources. While their program models, participants, and STEM-focus are quite different, these organizations offer promising practices that can benefit all communities.

Set a Place at the STEM Table for Youth with Disabilities and their Families

How can we make sure that kids who are deaf, visually impaired, or physically disabled have the chance to imagine and create a bright future with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)? Youth with disabilities hold potential to be productive and creative adults, and yet they are less likely to go to college and less likely to live independently than their peers without disabilities. It’s not because of their disability, but often because of the expectations and opportunities afforded to them. STEM can provide the means to master skills and develop confidence and perseverance that make possible a fulfilling life. Afterschool and summer programs provide many positive impacts as a result of hands-on engagement in safe spaces with caring adults and supportive peers. They increase interest and confidence in STEM and introduce a wide range of career pathways.

In this case study Dr. Linda Kekelis shares how STEM can empower and the programs, such as Deaf Kids Code, that are engaging youth and their families to make STEM learning opportunities accessible and successful.