Youth Engineering Solutions: Engineering Opportunities in Out-of-School Programs for English Learners

Project: Research project

Project Details


Millions of youth participate in out-of-school (OS) programs each year. Hispanic and Black youth participate at twice the rate of Caucasian youth in OS programs, making OS programs promising venues for addressing inequities in STEM. Although a majority of programs offer STEM experiences, less than a third of OS STEM programming includes engineering. High-quality curricular materials can support the introduction of engineering into these environments. However, such resources need to be carefully designed to provide learning opportunities that ensure all youth can participate, contribute, and benefit. One of the most rapidly growing populations in the U.S. at the elementary level are English learners (ELs). These youth face the challenge of simultaneously learning English and academic content, such as engineering. Few, if any, engineering curricula exist for OS settings that include scaffolds for ELs and their educators. The Youth Engineering Solutions: Engineering Opportunities in Out-of-School Programs for English Learners (YES-OS) project will refine a set of equity-oriented design principles for OS engineering that are informed by strategies for ELs. It will work closely with OS educators and stakeholders to develop and study two OS engineering curricular units for youth ages 9–12. Units will feature socially engaged, real-world design challenges, engage youth in engineering practices, and provide language scaffolds. The educative materials will include youth, educator, and family-facing resources and will be designed to scale nationwide. Research will study how curricula can provide opportunities for ELs and support educators. YES-OS's principles, resources, and research will inform asset-based models that build on youth's experience to create more equitable educational opportunities and thus broaden participation in engineering.

YES-OS will investigate ways that equity-oriented OS engineering curricula provide opportunities for ELs to learn knowledge, discourses, and practices; bring their cultures, experiences, and ideas to the engineering projects; expand their repertoire of identities and interests; and enhance membership in the learning community. The project will: (1) refine, apply, study, and modify a set of equity-oriented design principles for OS engineering curricula that are informed by strategies for ELs, (2) develop, test, and revise two OS engineering units for youth in ages 9–12 that instantiate the principles using design-based research, (3) begin to examine affordances of engineering for ELs in OS programming. This will include investigating how the engineering units engage youth in disciplinary knowledge and practices, scaffold social and academic discourses, increase interest in STEM, and foster a community that supports participation and identity development, and (4) explore how equity-based engineering curricula can support OS educators as they build their knowledge of and confidence with engineering, engineering practices, and ELs and create asset-based engineering programming. YES-OS will use design-based research to systematically design curriculum while simultaneously researching the efficacy of the curriculum design and the learning environments they foster. Thirty OS educators nationwide will work with developers to test frameworks and materials. Data including educator feedback, youth work, surveys, lesson observations and video, and focus groups will be analyzed using multiple qualitative and quantitative methods. Resources and findings will be disseminated to educators, stakeholders, the public, and researchers through websites, conferences, webinars, newsletters, research articles, and social media.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date4/15/219/30/23


  • National Science Foundation: $697,965.00


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