Click on the project titles below to learn more about active and past projects through the Center for Equitable Family STEM Learning.

Head Start on Engineering (2015–24)

HSE logo

Head Start on Engineering (HSE) is an ongoing initiative funded by the National Science Foundation (DRL-1515628, -1906409), and other partners and focused on empowering families to use engineering to help their children thrive. In the current project, we are extending the existing HSE program within Mt. Hood Community College Head Start and investigating the ways families develop interests related to engineering across contexts and over time. For this phase, the team is using a design-based implementation research (DBIR) approach and integrated longitudinal case studies to refine the HSE program with a larger group of families to serve as an innovative model for other communities around the country. The expanded program will also advance knowledge about family-level engineering interest development systems and how they can be supported by ongoing, cross-context learning experiences.

Ready, Set, Go! Engineering (2019–24)

In Ready, Set, Go! Engineering, we are extending the reach of the HSE program in partnership with Metropolitan Family Service (MFS), a community-based organization that serves low-income, racially and ethnically diverse communities in Portland, Oregon. With funding from the National Science Foundation (EEC-1930848), TERC, University of Notre Dame, and MFS are adapting the HSE program and activities for MFS’s parent and family engagement model. The team is also conducting a 3-year design-based research (DBR) study to better understand how the characteristics of hands-on family engineering activities influence how preschool-age children and their parents engage in the engineering design process.

Diálogos: Harnessing Latinx Community Cultural Wealth to Support Executive Function in Early Childhood through Family Engineering Experiences (2022–24)

dialogos logo

Diálogos is a National Science Foundation-funded project (DRL-2115463) in partnership with Oregon State University designed to engage parents as research partners in exploring ways we can leverage informal family engineering activities to support the development of executive function skills for preschool-age children from Latinx families. Through this initiative, we aspire to work collaboratively with parents, centering the strengths and assets of Latinx families to re-imagine the intersection of STEM learning and executive function and lay the foundation for equity-focused research. The project is focused on three research questions: (1) What knowledge, assets, and practices already exist within Latinx families related to these executive function skills? (2) What aspects of executive function skills can be supported through informal family engineering activities? and (3) What design strategies are promising for adapting informal family engineering activities to highlight family assets and support executive function skills for young children?

Engineering for Equity (2020–21)

engineering for equity ebook cover

With support from TERC, we developed a new strand of work related to the HSE initiative, Engineering for Equity, that focused on how engineering education research in early childhood can more directly address issues of equity for traditionally underrepresented communities—with a particular focus on low-income families that identify as Latinx or Hispanic. This included giving voice to participants, informing a more relevant and responsive engineering curriculum, documenting family stories of success and empowerment, and working with communities to help reshape the education system. Guided by a community-based participatory research process, we conducted conversations with experts, families, and community stakeholders, reviewed and synthesized literature; and developed plans for future work.

Storybook STEM: Professional Convening for Cross-Sector Understanding of Children’s Literature as a Tool for Supporting Informal STEM Learning (2019–2021)

storybook stem logo

Storybook STEM was a National Science Foundation-funded conference grant led by TERC in partnership with the University of Notre Dame with the goal of engaging early childhood reading, family learning, and informal STEM education (ISE) experts from across the country to better understand and advance work related to the integration of storybooks and ISE for families with young children. The project focused on educators and researchers working with or studying family learning for preschool-age children (3 to 5 years) using early childhood fiction books as a tool for engaging families in STEM topics and skills. Over 2 years, the Storybook STEM project team coordinated a series of activities to engage researchers and educators across the country, including a national survey, online forum, and in-person convening in December 2019. These discussions resulted in a series of recommendations and questions for both research and practice, including a call for the field to more explicitly apply an equity lens to the study and use of storybooks to support STEM learning with young children and their families.