Icon for: Karen Harrington


Center for Youth Engagement

Reclaiming Access to Inquiry-based Science Education (RAISE) for Incarcerated...

NSF Awards: 1418152

2018 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 9-12

Our NSF project, Reclaiming Access to Inquiry-based Science Education (RAISE) for Incarcerated Students: An Investigation of Project-Based Inquiry Science within a Universal Design for Learning Framework in Juvenile Corrections Settings is creating a  curriculum for incarcerated youth that is focused on STEM careers. While a wealth of research exists on career development for students in traditional schools, we know very little about the career development needs of incarcerated youth.  Students in correctional facilities often have minimal access to career development education while they are arguably the student population most in need of career intervention. Our tablet-based STEM Career Pathway curriculum is delivered to students on iPads. Because many incarcerated students struggle with learning challenges, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles are used throughout the curriculum to provide scaffolds and supports to enable all students to access the curriculum. In addition, lessons were developed using a co-design process in which each step of the curriculum – from instructional content to technical considerations - was designed and modified based on comments from students in correctional facilities.  A primary component of the STEM Career Pathway curriculum includes video interviews of people discussing their STEM job and the educational and career pathways which led them to this position. We intentionally chose to highlight people of color – who are underrepresented in the STEM field but disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system – so that students learned about opportunities in STEM from people who share similar backgrounds to them. We also interviewed women who are working as researchers, teaching science, and studying math, computer science, and astronomy because there has historically been low participation of females in STEM careers. Embedded within the project’s goal of teaching career planning to incarcerated youth was the social and moral imperative of providing all students with the necessary tools for making career decisions that lead to productive and meaningful work.

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