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Abstract Title: Wonderful Ideas Deserve Wonderful Research: Techniques for Studying Informal Physics Programs
Abstract: Informal physics spaces, with their focus on building student agency, creativity, and identity, are "wonderful" environments for both teaching and learning. Such spaces provide a unique opportunity for foundational research on physics education, since they are free of the constraints of most classroom settings: grades, compulsory attendance, predetermined curricula, etc. However, this freedom means that implementation of informal programs can vary greatly, thus creating novel challenges to evaluation and research as well.  There is therefore a real need for critical discussion of the different approaches to and methods of studying the diverse participants who engage in these environments.

This dynamic and interactive poster session will provide an opportunity for interested community members to engage with a number of topics important to informal physics education.  Presenters will be assembled from diverse perspectives and locales to share their experiences and insight on topics such as data collection, diversity of participants and pedagogies, evaluation and research, differences from formal education, etc.  For the first half of the session, presenters will give ~8-minute presentations to session participants in a rotating symposium format, focusing on the research and implementation of their specific programs. The second half of the session will take the form of a panel discussion, moderated by one of the session organizers, and featuring the presenters.  Participants will be able to direct the conversation, allowing them to dig deeper into presenters' research and experience while also touching upon broader topics such as challenges inherent to the field of informal physics itself.  To facilitate continued conversation and support for participants, the discussion will be documented, curated, and distributed following the session.  This session will thus be able to serve as a critical catalyst for the formation of this emerging informal physics community.
Abstract Type: Poster Symposium
Session Time: Parallel Sessions Cluster III
Room: Grand Central

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Kathleen Hinko
Michigan State University
and Co-Presenter(s)
Moderator/Discussant: K. Hinko, C. Fracchiolla
Presenters: M.B. Bennett, B. Fiedler, S. Hyater-Adams, T. Williams, E. Price, M. McColgan, B. Jones, C. Alvarado

Symposium Specific Information

Presentation 1 Title: Mapping the STEM Pipeline for successful underrepresented students in a high-needs school district
Presentation 1 Authors: Michele W. McColgan, Robert J. Colesante, and Kenneth Robin
Presentation 1 Abstract: Much has been written about the leaky STEM pipeline. During the middle school years, interest in STEM falls off, especially among Black and Latinx students and women. In underserved districts, a very small percentage graduate prepared for college, fewer still take math and science courses that prepare them for undergraduate STEM coursework. Beginning in the 2011-12 academic year, we implemented an informal STEM program for upper elementary and middle school students from a nearby underserved district to support them in and through the STEM Pipeline. Students choose from STEM offerings including hands-on engineering and computer technology courses, coding courses, and physics courses taught through hands-on activities and video games. We found that participants are similar in ethnicity, poverty, and residency, but outperform nonparticipants in a variety of NYS standardized measures of achievement while participating in the program ((e.g. Middle School ELA and Math Assessments) and years after leaving. For example program participants outperform nonparticipants in high school assessments in physics, chemistry, and algebra 2. They are also over-represented in advanced science classes, and in receiving diplomas with advanced designation - a key indicator of preparedness for success in a STEM-based-college major.
Presentation 2 Title: In-Situ Video Collection As a Tool For Investigation in Informal Physics Programs
Presentation 2 Authors: Brett Fiedler and Michael Bennett
Presentation 2 Abstract: The Partnerships for Informal Science Education in the Community (PISEC) is a University of Colorado at Boulder-sponsored physics outreach program in which volunteers travel to local K-12 schools, engaging in open-ended physics activities with small groups of children, typically those from under-represented minority (URM) backgrounds. As a design-based program, *PISEC engages in ongoing self-evaluation even as it pursues a rigorous and cutting-edge informal physics education research agenda. To that end, ongoing in-situ video collection has been designed into the very core of the program. We will present on the various ways video is used to engage the students and gather data on both the child and adult participants in PISEC.
Presentation 3 Title: Identity in STEAM: Building physics identities through performance
Presentation 3 Authors: Simone Hyater-Adams, Tamia Williams, Claudia Fracchiolla, Noah Finkelstien, Kathleen Hinko
Presentation 3 Abstract: Educational programs that integrate the arts and sciences, or STEAM, are growing in prominence within the informal education sphere. However, there is still work to be done on understanding what these programs do for students. We begin to answer to this question through an examination of identity. With the broad research goal of understanding physics identity for Black students, we explore the potential for informal STEAM educational spaces to plant the seeds of physics identity through the use of pedagogies and activities that incorporate dance and theatre. We present findings from a study where Black physicists were asked about how their participation in the arts impacted their physics identities. These findings show that the performing arts played several different roles in these physicists lives. Here, we present the ways that these themes map onto potential structures, pedagogies, and norms in an informal physics and performance program for youth.
Presentation 4 Title: Assessing interest, self-efficacy, and relevance in an afterschool Making program
Presentation 4 Authors: Ed Price
Presentation 4 Abstract: Research-based design principles were used to develop and implement an afterschool Making program for middle school students with the overall goal of broadening participation in STEM. Specific objectives include increasing participants' interest and self-efficacy related to Making and STEM, as well as their perception of the relevance of STEM/Making in everyday life. In the program, called Mobile Making, teams of highly qualified and ethnically diverse undergraduate science and math majors lead weekly sessions that engage middle school-aged participants in Making. The program operates at 12 middle schools with large Hispanic/Latino populations. Observations, focus groups, and surveys documented increases in the participants' interest and self-efficacy related to Making and STEM, as well as their perception of the relevance of STEM/Making in everyday life. The program implementation, evaluation strategy, and outcomes will be described, with implications for others seeking to broaden participation in Making and STEM through informal education experiences.