The STEM Guides project creates and studies an innovative model of capacity-building for out-of-school STEM learning in rural areas. “STEM Guides” are community members who both cultivate the local landscape of out-of-school STEM and help youth and families navigate it. Small teams of STEM Guides are trained to identify and foster STEM assets in their regions and to connect interested youth with these resources in creative ways.
What Do STEM Guides Do
Sometimes the Guides only need to point students or parents in the direction of an interesting opportunity in order to help them make a connection. Other times they assist a student or parent in resolving issues that stand between them and the opportunity (e.g. transportation, cost, bureaucracy). If necessary, a STEM Guide can also step in and lead experiences for students, by launching an existing, proven OST STEM program such as a Teen Science Café club or a Junior Solar Sprint team.
Whenever guides lead programs, however, they also actively engage and involve local partners (e.g. by utilizing space at the library, local STEM professionals, community-based transportation providers and communication networks, local businesses, volunteers) in order to foster the sustainability of their efforts.
Importantly, MMSA offers resources, access to networks, and professional development (including ACRES Coaching) to all of the Guides. The project also works closely with MMSA’s Reach Center project, which connects youth, ages 10–18, with STEM opportunities outside of school. These and other investments help sustain the progress each STEM Hub makes over its 2–3 year span.
Where We Work
Since 2013, the project has been implementing and studying STEM Guides, how they operate, and the results of their efforts, in five, low-income, rural regions in Maine, which we call “STEM hubs.”
The Downeast Hub is also recognized and supported as the most rural of the 56 STEM Learning Ecosystems that participate in this national initiative of the STEM Funders Network.
See Publications from this Project
- STEM Guides: Connecting Rural Youth to Informal STEM (3-minute video)
- “STEM Guides professional brokers in rural STEM ecosystems” in International Journal of Science Education, Part B, in 2020.
- “Informal STEM learning for rural teens: Focusing on first responders” in Journal of STEM Outreach, in 2020.
- Farmers Markets and Fairs as Venues for Doing Math in Rural Settings in Journal of STEM Outreach, vol. 1, November 2018
- “Drone Technology in Hurricane Response” in Teen Science Cafe Network’s Blog, Cool Cafes, April 2018
- “Facilitating Formal-Informal Connections in Rural STEM Ecosystems” in Connected Science Learning, vol. 3, June 2017
- “Learning STEM in Maine Places” on MMSA website
This project is funded by the National Science Foundation, grant #DRL-1322827. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in these materials are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.