STEM Teens: Youth participation in research

Are teens the most effective educators and explainers?

A lack of diversity in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) workforce is impoverishing science and many talented young people are not getting involved in STEM. 

Approach

STEM Teens brought researchers, practitioners, and young people together to transform participation in STEM. This UK/US collaboration recruited under-represented young people as enablers, doing science engagement with visitors in informal science learning (ISL) settings, such as  science and discovery centres or museums.

What we found

A longitudinal study of the teenagers involved found that despite a high interest in STEM, not all young enablers were interested in STEM careers. However, interest was higher if they had friends also interested in STEM; a sense of social competency and self-efficacy in their role as an enabler; and if they felt a sense of belonging to an inclusive science centre.

Lessons learned

Visitors appreciated engaging with the young enablers. Research found that child visitors who engaged with a young enabler learnt more, and were more interested in, the science, than those who engaged with an adult educator or just with their parents, guardians and family.

However, girls who engaged with a male rather than female enabler were much more likely to think that boys rather than girls are usually good at STEM and showed higher engagement with the exhibits These findings suggest that stereotypical views of STEM are prevalent in this age group (representing an average age 9). If girls are to engage with, and learn from, their interactions in informal science learning settings, they need to be challenged,

Find out more

The project still has a year to go, and new findings are emerging all the time. Website coming soon. 

Project publications:

Project partners
University of Exeter
Queen Mary University of London
University of Cambridge
NC State University
University of South Carolina
EdVenture Children's Museum
Riverbanks Zoo & Garden
Centre of the Cell
thinktank Birmingham Science Museum
Virginia Aquarium 
Florence Nightingale Museum

Project lead: Adam Rutland (University of Exeter) 

Contact: Adam Rutland A.Rutland@exeter.ac.uk 

< Back to Science Learning+ page