Collaborative Research, Pathways Project: Project SOS - Making Connections using the Science Of Sustainability
This Pathways Project connects rural, underserved youth and families in Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho to STEM concepts important in sustainable building design. The project is a collaboration of the Palouse Discovery Science Center (Pullman, WA), Washington State University and University of Idaho, working in partnership with rural community organizations and businesses. The deliverables include: 1) interactive exhibit prototype activities, 2) a team cooperative learning problem-solving challenge, and (3) take-home materials to encourage participants to use what they have learned to investigate ways to make their homes more energy-efficient and sustainable.
The project introduces youth and families to the traditionally difficult physics concept of thermal energy, particularly as it relates to sustainable building design. Participants explore how building materials and their properties can be used to control all three types of heat transfer: conduction, convection, and radiation. The interactive exhibit prototypes are coupled with an Energy Efficient Engineering Challenge in which participants, working in cooperative learning teams, use information learned from the exhibit prototype activities to retrofit a model house, improving its energy efficiency. The project components are piloted at the Palouse Discovery Science Center, and then travel to three underserved rural/tribal communities in Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington. Front-end and formative evaluation studies will demonstrate whether this model advances participant understanding of and interest in STEM topics and careers.
The project will yield information about ways that other ISE practitioners can effectively incorporate cooperative learning strategies in informal settings to improve the transferability of knowledge gained from exhibits to real-world problem-solving challenges, especially for rural and underserved audiences. This project will also provide the ISE field with: 1) a model for increasing the capacity of small, rural science centers to form collaborative regional networks that draw on previously unused resources in their communities and provide more effective outreach to the underrepresented populations they serve, and 2) a model for coupling cooperative learning with outreach exhibits, providing richer experiences of active engagement.