littleBits commits to collaborate with UNCG in order to establish an all-girls science and engineering club focused on littleBits activities, reaching 20 refugee girls, and develop eight case studies each year of the study for future scalability. This commitment will expand the study and development of a highly innovative and effective STEM program for refugee youth in North Carolina.
The science and engineering club will meet weekly for 1-1.5 hours throughout the academic year and for an intensive one-week summer session during two academic years (2015-16 & 2016-17). The project team, headed by Dr. Tan (Science Education) and Dr. Faircloth (Educational Psychology), will facilitate Engineering/Making learning opportunities built around a littleBits library of modules. Given its intuitive and concrete nature, littleBits is an ideal, universal product that overcomes the challenges of STEM learning and engagement for refugee children, and English Language Learners (ELLs) more generally. The project team will conduct intense ethnographic research that assesses learning opportunities of the programs practices and youth identity in science.
Dr. Tans research foci include: equity-related investigations centered on minority youths (adolescent) development of critical science literacy and agency; and youths identity work trajectories in both formal and informal learning spaces. Dr. Faircloths research expertise includes critical cultural issues that impact engagement and learning primarily among adolescents, especially the role of students identity and culture in their sense of belonging in learning settings.
littleBits also commits to develop eight case studies and publications for future and continued work in STEM education for youth. The team will create and make readily accessible case studies and resulting best practices for the purpose of developing a littleBits education model readily usable by other refugee community centers and public school teachers. These will be valuable in demonstrating plausible ways to overcome language barriers through a unique style of teaching and learning. Results from the study will also be submitted for publication in reputable scholarly journals, and presented at relevant conferences.
littleBits STEM Maker program
2016, Q1: Establish informal STEM littleBits maker program at the CNNC refugee community center with core group of 20 youth. Youth to become familiar with 25% of littleBits library components through hands-on inquiry and making
2016, Q2: Continue weekly maker program, youth continue to explore littleBits library, bringing their experience to 50% of the components and working on one design challenge using littleBits that will solve an everyday problem
2016, Q3:Youth prototype their innovation in cycles, with dialogue sessions with experts (e.g. engineers, science teachers, local makers)
2016, Q4: Youth complete first innovation, conduct investigations on their innovations efficacy, and continue to refine their design, working on version 2.0 or 3.0 of their innovation. Culminate in a Maker Faire style celebration that will include parents and the local community.
2017, Q1: Youth continue exploration of new bits from littleBits library
2017, Q2: Youth undertake second design challenge with expanded expertise in more bit components, to solve an everyday problem
2017, Q3: Youth prototype second design challenge, engage in dialogue sessions with experts
2017 Q4: Youth complete second innovation, conduct investigations on their innovations efficacy, and continue to refine their design, working on version 2.0 or 3.0 of their innovation. Culminate in a celebration Maker Faire that will include parents and the local community.
Data to be collected, analyzed and reported throughout include:
How youth are engaging with particular bits of the library, description of the iterative making process youth undertake, impact of making on youths developing STEM expertise and STEM identity.
Development of video and written case studies, best practices, and conference/journal submissions.
Between 2002 and 2011, the United States admitted 515,350 refugees; a third or whom were under the age of 18 (US Department of Homeland Security). These children often struggle with the relocation process, particularly with education. Schools are rarely prepared to meet the needs to youth fleeing persecution and violence. Moreover, cultural incongruence, identity dissonances, and lack of resources (e.g., food and markers of youth culture, such as toys or personal items common to adolescence) are a chronic challenge. Little has been done to study these issues, leaving this group one of the most marginalized and under-researched groups in the United States. There is evidence, however, that high-quality, out-of-school STEM experiences can positively impact participation and learning, particularly in lower-income communities. Moreover, the recently evolving Maker Movement has evoked interest for its potential role in breaking down longstanding barriers to engagement, learning, and attainment.
As North Carolina has experienced one of the highest number of recent refugee arrivals, faculty at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro (UNCG), have taken action to address these critical issues. The Center for New North Carolinians (CNNC), a center within UNCG, runs a community program at refugee housing complexes, providing support for new refugee families, including after-school tutoring and enrichment activities for youth. In collaboration with CNNC, UNCG faculty members Dr. Tan and Dr. Faircloth have conducted a weekly community based STEM maker-club for refugee youth for the past two years. This project engages youth in innovating artifacts through engineering to meet a need in their lives (e.g. creating simple mechanical toys). Their work has demonstrated deeper engagement and increased science understanding among refugee youth participating in this project.
With the growing number of refugees entering the US, there is an increasing need for further research and engagement with minority groups, particularly young girls.