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CAST to Investigate How Outdoor Recreation Can Foster Positive STEM Identities and Pathways for Rural Youth

National Science Foundation (NSF) logo with CAST waves in the background

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

CAST and the University of New Hampshire (UNH) have been awarded $300,000 from the Advancing Informal Science Education (AISL) at the National Science Foundation (NSF) program to explore strategies that make careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) more attractive and accessible to teenagers in New Hampshire’s rural communities.

For rural teens, experiencing the outdoors is often a natural part of their everyday life, whether it’s hunting or fishing for food or climbing or snowboarding for recreation. But they don’t always make the connection between outdoor activities and STEM learning. To better understand this, CAST and UNH researchers will enlist the youth themselves (grades 7–12) as active researchers.

According to principal investigator Amanda Bastoni, Ed.D. of CAST’s Workforce and Career Education team, participating youth will track their outdoor recreation activities, make observations about STEM connections, and make recommendations for leveraging those insights. Says Bastoni: “This project is a collaborative effort from learners to researchers, from UNH to Career and Technical Education directors we will all be working together to investigate the potential connections and build on work already being done in the region.”

This project builds on another CAST initiative, Learning Outside the Box, a project that first brought together Career and Technical Education (CTE) and outdoor recreation professionals in New Hampshire and aligns closely with work being led by UNH at the state level in states across the country.

Ultimately, outcomes from this study will be applicable to rural areas with similar characteristics and challenges, which are numerous. Additionally, results from this study will inform the direction of future outdoor recreation and STEM implementation projects, including potentially the creation of a Rural Outdoor Recreation STEM Ecosystem community of practice—the first hub of its kind in New Hampshire.

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