STEAM Education and Training for Underrepresented Students and Teachers in the Arkansas Delta

  • Abstract

    People of color are underrepresented in STEAM education and careers, often due to socio-economic and institutional factors. Success in pre-collegiate courses predicts African American student success in STEM disciplines. A STEAM Summer Program pilot project with 6-9th grade students from Dumas, Arkansas (AR) Public School, a predominately African American, low-income, rural town located in the AR Delta, has been in operation at the University of Arkansas (UA) for the past 5 years. Financial support began with a two-year grant from a local women’s group and has continued with commitments from University resources. The goals of our proposed STEAM Summer Program are to recruit 400 rising 6th grade students from Dumas public school and to increase engagement, outreach, and support for students and their families, STEAM teachers, and Dumas surrounding communities through STEAM education and training. In 2018, the STEM program expanded to include Art (now called STEAM) for broadening the knowledge of its students. Thus, we plan to: (1) provide project-based STEAM curriculum modules and hands-on education and training to 400 rising 6th grade students (80 per year); (2) support success by engaging 15 Dumas STEAM teachers in a project-based STEAM Teacher Training Program; and (3) provide a pathway to college via a Child Savings Account (CSA) program and accompanying financial education classes. The first three short-term objectives of this proposal are to increase awareness, future orientation and efficacy in STEAM and STEAM-related fields for 400 rising 6th grade, under-represented minority (URM) students from the Dumas, AR public elementary school.

    The long-term objectives are to promote excellence in STEAM teaching at Dumas schools, student efficacy and interest in STEAM coursework, high school retention and graduation, college savings, college enrollment and completion, and a career path in STEAM and STEAM-related fields for participants. We have partnered with faculty experts in Biology, Biomedical Sciences, Engineering, Art, Kinesiology, Exercise Science, Education, and Social Work to conduct the STEAM Summer Program at our campus. During the same time frame of the STEAM Summer Program, we also plan to bring Dumas STEAM Teachers to the UA Campus in years 1-4 to engage in 36 hours of STEAM curriculum and assessment training and to teach their new modules to their own students; Year 5 training will be at the Dumas schools. An external evaluator will use surveys (e.g. Measure of Problem-Solving Fitness (MPSF); Child Savings Account survey) and focus groups to (a) assess the manner in which students and teachers solve problems, the strategies they utilize, and their use of engineering design methodologies to efficiently solve technical and social problems that they encounter; (b) gauge financial literacy and college savings; and (c) measure personal, social, and financial well-being. The same outcome measures will be collected from the control group (N=400).

Project Audience

An objective of this proposal is to provide on-campus STEAM laboratory, education, and research experience to 400 low-income, racially diverse middle school students and 15 STEAM teachers from the Dumas, Arkansas public school system. The project is significant because it will introduce the students to different STEAM and STEAM-related fields and to the amenities at the University of Arkansas- Fayetteville (UA), with the intent to foster a desire to pursue a (a) career in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics or STEAM- related fields, (b) commitment to improved public health, and (c) college education at UA or another university. We will also offer a STEAM Teacher Training Program for Dumas Public School STEAM teachers each year and incorporate an innovative Child Savings Account (CSA) college savings program for all youth participants, with seed deposits of $50 and regular financial education classes for students, parents, and siblings.