Investigating Title I School Student STEM Attitudes and Experience in an After-School Problem-Based Bridge Building Project

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Previous studies suggest a strong correlation between exposure to hands-on STEM programs and positive atti-tudes toward and experience with STEM subject matter amongst, middle, high school, and university students. However, there has been little research on the impact of hands-on STEM projects on Title I (socioeconomically dis-advantaged) elementary students. The current study in-vestigated the outcome of a project-based bridge design project developed for Title I elementary students using a mixed-methods research design. 36 students participated in an eight-weeks after-school project-based bridge building curriculum using K’NEX building kits. Quantita-tive data were collected on student attitudes towards STEM before and after the student participation using a STEM attitude survey. Qualitative data were collected via focus-group interviews at the project’s conclusion. Survey results show that student attitudes toward engineering and technology had a significant increase in favorable perception after participation. However, student attitudes did not significantly change towards math or science. The focus-group interviews indicated that students had a positive experience overall and preferred hands-on ac-tivities more than research and reading. The findings have implications for the design of STEM programs guided by project-based learning (PBL) for socioeconomically disad-vantaged students and communities.

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