By Jennifer Wyld

Taking a break from beating my Maker drum this month, I thought I would write about the actual paid work I do while working on my degree.  I have a research assistant position on a longitudinal study happening here in the Northwest, in which I was lucky enough to get hired my first year of this PhD process and will see me through to my graduation.  Lucky indeed, in this world of expensive educations! The project I am part of is called Synergies, and the PI’s I work with from OSU are John Falk and Lynn Dierking- the other two-thirds of the FCL staff in our department.  We also have some colleagues from other universities, such as William Penuel,  in Boulder, Colorado.  The goal of this project is to follow the interest development of a cohort of early adolescents from 5th through 8th grade.  While we are particularly interested in STEM, we are noting other interest development as well.  To gather data, we are using both quantitative and qualitative techniques.  Each academic year, we are surveying every member of the grade cohort (who we can get a consent form from!) with a questionnaire covering topics such as interest in STEM fields, career aspirations, family practices, and out-of-school activities.  We are supplementi

The first two years of the study focused on establishing a base-line of understanding about what is currently happening in the community and with this group of youth.   We are using this data to start creating an asset map for the area as well as an “agent-based modeling system” that we intend to use as a predictive tool (if we tweak the community ‘x’ way, ‘y’ happens).  Our next step has been to build a collaborative relationship with both in-school and out-of-school organizations that we will leverage to create interventions to see if we can positively impact interest development around STEM.

Two graduate projects that are hoping to use these interventions are around gardening and Maker experiences.  You can probably guess who is working on the second one! However, the one of the overall goals of funders of the implementation part of  the study is to help create sustainable programs, so Deb Bailey (the other grad research assistant) and I will be working with groups already established in the greater area of our study, but who are not currently active in this particular community.  We are both still just in the planning stages- but we will keep you posted!

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