MMSA’s NSF-funded INCLUDES Planning Grant: Broadening Participation of Rural K-12 Girls in Mathematics Intensive STEM Fields (Award #2040921) wrapped up this winter with a fourth and final meeting of the research to practice partnership. This planning grant brought together key stakeholders in a Research-to-Practice Partnership (RPP) to broaden the participation of rural K-12 girls in mathematics-intensive STEM fields. Throughout our meetings, our RPP – comprised of young women, undergraduate and graduate students, K-16 educators, STEM researchers and professionals, and MMSA staff – worked collaboratively to amplify the voices and experiences of rural young women, the communities they live in, the STEM business sectors they could work in, and the educators they learn with in order to build lasting partnerships, pathways forward, focused research questions, and a strategic plan to address this overall agenda. We are proud of the foundation that we laid during the planning grant and look forward to exploring potential paths forward to help make our vision come to life.
The highlight of our final RPP meeting was a test-run of one such strategies for helping all stakeholders come to know the lived experiences of rural young women and collaboratively work to address barriers and build on opportunities to better serve this demographic – an immersion experience. In the immersion experience, rural Maine educator Kate Anderson took us on a virtual tour of a day in the life of a rural educator. It was an eye-opening experience for so many of our RPP members – as we watched Kate navigate teaching across three different grade levels (simultaneously), coaching the cross country team, serving as tech support for her small school of 40 students, and occasionally subbing in to assist with janitorial responsibilities. As Kate said, “Working at a small rural school means wearing many hats, but the connections we make with kids far outweighs all of the challenges.”