Making Connections to Support STEM Transitions

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Strategy 6

Building relationships with families and youth to pursue immersive STEM opportunities

Making Connections, aims to understand and support transitions and handoffs that remove barriers and connect youth to STEM learning opportunities.

Understanding how to make connections across settings in systematic ways can support the study of, replication, and scaling of strategies for making connections across settings in out-of-school STEM learning.

Strategy 6: Building relationships with families and youth to get buy-in for pursuing immersive STEM opportunities

Strategy 6 is about the intentional work supportive adults do to get family and youth buy-in for STEM learning opportunities to make them more comfortable and enthusiastic about youth participating in STEM programs.

Why would you use this strategy?

This strategy inspires and engages youth and their families as it creates opportunities for youth to have access to immersive STEM events and experiences (e.g., Space Camp, STEM internships).

Who would use this strategy?

Networks and programs that need to deepen family investment and engagement in STEM opportunities and those who see families as partners in their children’s education.

“The parents are invested, we have really good relationships. They want good things for their kids. STEM camps are a big thing, and I know that a lot of our families, that’s not something that you can just shell out money for. And they really want their kids to have that opportunity, and so they’re willing to get them here or find a way to get them here most days. And (students) look for someone to treat them like an equal…so speaking to them about what they want is really important, giving them space to express who they are.”

-Taylor, Woodland Forrest

Target Outcomes

Important Considerations

Design Considerations at the Network Level

youth and program leaders work together at table

Design Considerations at the Program Level

Case Study: “Here’s How I Write Them, Here’s Why I Do It.” Working Toward Systematizing the Brokering of Relationships at Woodland Forrest in ALACN

Brokering Relationships with Youth and Families to Make Connections to Immersive STEM Opportunities

In addition to supporting interest development, relationships that teachers broker with youth and families can connect youth to community resources for learning. Educators can also encourage family members to work alongside youth as learners and coaches and connect youths’ current educational experiences to family histories. 

The Project IMPACT program runs on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 3:30-5pm. A typical day in the program includes the girls first getting a snack and engaging in a “sisterhood activity” (i.e., a bonding activity) and then open sharing about anything from their day and/or weekend. At around 3:45 they begin delving into the day’s activity and problem (e.g., environmental impact, deforestation) they are going to address that day.

Rooted in a sense of shared humanity and connection, Project IMPACT’s approach to relationship building with families is thoughtful and systematic. They host in-person family night’s that include stations from industry partners and engineering groups. Project IMPACT staff develop positive connections with students and their families to further relationships. 

Connections between and across STEM learning settings and experiences can promise to foster meaningful, lifelong STEM learning for youth, yet the detailed and concrete mechanisms for how this learning is connected remains unclear. Little is known about how STEM learning is connected in systematic and sustainable ways.

Making Connections, aims to understand and support transitions and handoffs that remove barriers for youth by connecting STEM learning across ages and settings, ensuring youth interest and motivation persists.

These products are based on research conducted through a collaboration between the Connected Learning Lab at University of California Irvine and STEM Next and their regional partners. It was made possible thanks to the generous support of The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and Samueli Foundation.

Strategy six is is one of eight still-evolving strategies, for coordinating and brokering connections across settings in STEM ecosystems. These are intended to serve as tools for making connections across settings to support STEM transitions and unlock academic, workforce-related, and civic opportunities for all youth, especially underrepresented groups like girls, youth of color, and youth from low-income families.

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