Providing equitable opportunities to disadvantaged youth through STEM education

Students from lower-income and marginalized households are often being left behind in terms of educational achievements and career aspirations, due to physical and financial barriers. A Canadian charity, Visions of Science Network for Learning, is trying to change that by offering STEM-based programs to children from marginalized communities. As their case study has shown, these programs are indeed successful in getting children more engaged with science.

What kind of work does Visions of Science Network for Learning (VoSNL) do?

Visions of Science Network for Learning (VoSNL) Inc. is a charitable organization that aims to advance the educational achievements and career aspirations of youth from low-income and marginalized communities through meaningful engagement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and research. The organization aims to eliminate these barriers by creating free and consistent opportunities for youth to access fun, experiential STEM learning within their communities.

Providing equitable opportunities to youth is critical. Science engagement brings change to youth from low-income communities through allowing them to explore and solve problems affecting their everyday lives. Through this, they have the capacity to contribute to solving bigger problems

What has your research shown about the effects of these programs?

Our research has shown that the VoSNL Community Science Programs has been successful in delivering STEM-based programming within a community context, provided opportunities for consistent engagement to youth, and established positive youth-staff relationships. Specifically such programs promote increased interest and participation in STEM learning, aim to increase confidence in learning, and aim to increase knowledge and awareness of STEM careers and research.

Why is science engagement important for youth residing in low-income communities?

Providing equitable opportunities to youth is critical. Science engagement is important for all youth as it is connected to the development of critical skills and career options. With the augmented barriers faced by youth residing in low-income communities, it is critical that youth be connected to meaningful opportunities in science fields so that they can develop skills and make informed decisions regarding the world around them and future career options.

(Image via Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons)

How is science able to bring change to youth in marginalized communities?

Science engagement brings change to youth from low-income communities through allowing them to explore and solve critical problems affecting their everyday lives. Through this, they have the capacity to contribute to solving bigger problems and have the confidence to ask questions and shift community expectations.

Tell us a success story in this after school program. What did impress you about the kids’ feedback to the program activities?

An example of the impact of our program is a story from Aaron (name changed), a 14 year old student from a local Science Club in one of the most marginalized communities that VoSNL programming is housed. This student first enrolled in the Community Science Club 5 years ago. The hands-on and interactive learning experience provided by the program mentors helped him build his interest in science as he stated: “When I think of science, I think of Visions of Science because that’s where my enthusiasm for science came from”.

Aaron has become so excited about science that it inspired him to enrol in a science enrichment program within the local school board. This past summer, Aaron participated in our STEM Community Leaders program which engages youth grades 8 to 12 in more enriched and immersive STEM learning opportunities. Aaron continues to participate in VoSNL’s Community Science Club as a mentor and builds his leadership skills as he shares his knowledge with youth involved in the program. With his success in science, Aaron is confident that he can one day become a successful chemist.

You can read the report on their after-school STEM program here.
For more information about Visions of Science Network for Learning (VoSNL) Inc. please visit their website.

 

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