Engaging underrepresented students in STEM
A research team led by Levon Esters, associate professor of youth development and agricultural education, has received $1.1 million from the National Science Foundation to help underrepresented minority students learn about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Using engineering principles integrated with agricultural and life sciences, approximately 300 fourth through seventh grade students at William Penn School 49 in Indianapolis will focus on three real-world community problems.
“We’re using examples connected to agriculture that students understand: food security and safety, alternative energy, and green space utilization—those things that they see and hear and smell every day,” Esters says. Students will use model-eliciting activities to address community solutions for food deserts, investigate energy sources, and explore urban gardens and landscapes.
The project includes professional development sessions for educators teaching STEM subjects and measures community participation from partners like Dow AgroSciences and Purdue Extension. “We hope that students will be more engaged with STEM in the classroom, have an increased interest, and have greater aspirations to stay engaged in STEM when they graduate from elementary and middle school,” Esters says.