Article: Celebrating STEM in Rural Communities: A Model for an Inclusive Science and Engineering Festival

What do we know?

  • Research shows that opportunities for informal science learning are limited in rural communities when compared to urban ones.
  • The Genome Science Education Outreach (GSEO) program collaborated with the University of Washing Gaining Early Access and Readiness for Undergraduate Program (GEARUP) to address this need by preparing three annual science festivals in rural Washington state.
  • Key outcomes from festival attendees highlighted that the majority of middle and high school students experienced an increased understanding of STEM careers, with 60-75% interested in personally pursuing a STEM career. Gains in knowledge were also made by community members who attended, though not to the same degree as the middle and high school students.
  • As part of the festival evaluation process, teachers provided feedback on the festival event, providing insight into how the experience impacted their students. Teacher feedback indicated that students enjoyed the hands-on activities and the opportunity to interact with STEM professionals and that this exposure complemented classroom experiences.

How do we know?

The festival itself was developed collaboratively between GSEO, GEARUP, and other key community members and stakeholders from the target geographic area. Once implemented, the festival was evaluated over the three years using a variety of instruments to assess outcomes. This included the development of three instruments for use with students, an online survey for teachers, and the opportunity for community members to complete interviews in person or via a written survey at the festival.

Where do we go to learn more?

Munn, M., J. Griswold, H. Starks, et al. (2018). “Celebrating STEM in Rural Communities: A Model for an Inclusive Science Festival.” Journal of STEM Outreach, 1(1).