Current Projects

Fostering STEAM

Building on our previous NSF-funded Colors of Nature project, our team is offering STEAM-based professional development experiences to educators in a variety of out-of-school environments, including science centers, libraries, and after school programs. We prepare educators to work with learners in a way that fosters identification with science and art, enhances science and art learning, and promotes equity in science disciplines.  Our research focuses on the ways in which STEAM practices are taken up by educators and implemented with youth. This project is funded by the National Science Foundation (PI Laura Conner, Co-PIs Mareca Guthrie, Stephen Pompea, Blakely Tsurusaki, and Carrie Tzou).  More information can be found on our Fostering STEAM website.

Hot Times in Cold Places: The Hidden World of Permafrost

What is the value of a real object? Many museum practitioners have argued that real objects provide unique learning experiences, evoking more powerful reactions than replicated or virtual objects. This project investigates visitor learning in response to real and replicated objects within the context of the nation’s only permafrost tunnel (in Fox, Alaska) and an associated exhibit at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. We posit that hands-on experiences with objects such as bones, ice wedges, and frozen soil help visitors connect with climate change at a visceral level.  This project is funded by the National Science Foundation (PI Matthew Sturm, Co-PIs Vicki Coats and Laura Conner).

BRIGHT Girls (Budding Research Investigators in Geosciences, Habitat, and Technology)

Despite huge advances in equitable gender representation in some STEM fields, there remain large gender gaps in others.  This project leverages girls’ documented interest in biology to open up new interests in fields such geophysics and computer science.  We will investigate the impact of professional STEM role models on STEM identity and motivation during two-week summer academies and follow-up Saturday events.  This project is funded by the National Science Foundation (PI Laura Conner, Co-PIs Anupma Prakash and Andrew Seitz).