Research Scientist

Dionne N. Champion


Dionne Champion, PhD, is a learning sciences researcher focused on the design and ethnographic study of learning environments that blend STEM and creative embodied learning activities for children who have experienced feelings of marginalization in STEM education settings. Her diverse background as an engineer, dancer, arts educator, and education researcher gives her an informed perspective on the intersections of arts and sciences, informal and school settings, theory, and practice. Her research focuses on STEM and Arts integration through “making,” engaging youth in arts-integrated making practices with an intentional focus on developing equitable relationships, positioning youth and communities as co-researchers. She works primarily with underrepresented populations, researching learning and identity in informal learning spaces, seeking to understand how the body and dance can be resources for sense-making, contribute to the development of agency, and support healthy conversations around race, power, equity, and social issues.

Dionne is also the founder of DancExcel, a creative arts center in Gary, Indiana. Her experience running that program include designing and implementing educational programming that infuses science, math, writing and history into music and dance activities. This work has deepened her appreciation for the fact that context matters, that cognition is complex and that understandings are often demonstrated but left unspoken. It also deepened her commitment to exploring both STEM and making opportunities for children of color, thinking not only about how to broaden participation, but also about how to understand, respect, and shed light on the ways in which children already engage, and the strengths that they bring to the table.

Dionne is currently developing a research program that studies ways to engage children in authentic STEM experiences and that interrogates and complicates the ways we think about sense-making, particularly within informal learning environments like Makerspaces where STEM is not just STEM, movement can be more than “just” movement, and the pathways to understanding are not linear, normative, or even always predictable.


Ph.D. Learning Sciences, Northwestern University, 2018
M.Ed. Dance, Temple University, 2003
B.S. Chemical Engineering, Florida A&M University, 1998

Honors & Awards