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Reimagining Engineering: Informal Science Learning through Service Learning Community Engagement

Improving Learning Strategies in STEM

Author Information:

Abiola Farinde, PhD
University of Pittsburgh

Presentation Information:

Presentation #: 2
Date: 3rd June, 2015
Time: 10:30 am - 12:00 pm
Location: KHAIROON EAST (Room 1)


Female, Black, Latino and Native American students are underrepresented in the STEM pipeline. Finding ways to increase underrepresented populations in STEM fields continues to be a major initiative in education. Many underrepresented student groups express a strong orientation toward service and community engagement. Informal Science Education (ISE) can be structured to include community engagement and to engage learners? interest and enhance their understanding of the theory and practice of science. Service learning is a strategy that can be used within an ISE pedagogy to highlight how engineering acts as a community engaged vocation. This report describes a service learning project that exposed underrepresented high school aged students to engineering via a community service activity in which students built irrigation equipment for use in a community garden. The objective of the project was to use the context of the service project to motivate the high school students to consider STEM majors. To assess the impact of informal science education through service learning, a qualitative study was also conducted. Three themes emerged: experiential learning (learning while doing), broadening perspective and identity as performance. Lessons learned and strategies for improving the service learning design are also discussed.