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CAST, Partners to Create Multigenerational Makerspace Program in Affordable Housing Community

Photo collage of families doing makerspace activities together

Friday, June 12, 2020

With funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), CAST and two partners will develop and study an innovative model for a community-based, multigenerational makerspace in an affordable housing complex. Families in the 200-unit Bayview Tower community in Connecticut will build an understanding of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts by co-designing a community-based makerspace and participating in onsite makerspace workshops.

Joining CAST in this effort are the NHP Foundation/Operation Pathways, a national affordable housing provider with rich services for residents, and the Boston University Social Learning Lab, which researches the social context for STEM learning.

Makerspaces are learning environments that engage participants in hands-on, collaborative projects that foster creativity, interest, and skill development. Projects may include computer coding, electronics, wood-working, sewing, or other inventive arts.

While makerspaces have cropped up in schools, libraries, museums, and other settings, low-income communities have not had the same access to these resources and their learning opportunities as more affluent ones. This project will aim to change that by embedding STEM learning in families’ lives, allowing caregivers, children, young adults, and neighbors to gather and share their existing knowledge and skills and build on it, using STEM to meet personally relevant goals, be these to pursue a STEM career pathway or nurture a hobby or interest.

The research will examine how residents living in affordable housing access, engage, and learn in makerspaces, and relate their learning to relevant goals. The project will also produce a Multi-Gen Maker Playbook—an educational guide for workshops and themes that other communities can use to build thriving programs.

“We want to build a model for meaningful STEM learning across generations that’s sustainable, replicable, and effective,” says Sam Catherine Johnston, CAST’s Director of Workforce and Postsecondary Learning. “Our partner, Operation Pathways, provides strong resident programming across generations within affordable housing communities, and this is an excellent environment for informal STEM learning.  The community can foster the next generation of STEM leaders—leaders who will do the essential work to create greater equity in our healthcare system or tackle climate change. Our education and workforce systems need these leaders and we think this makerspace co-designed with the community is one way to help us get there.”

The project is funded by NSF’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments. This includes providing multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences.

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