Newly Funded: Taking Inclusive STEM Learning to the Next Level with Building Capacity for Autism Phase 2 Project!


ILI is thrilled to share our latest venture: “Broadening and Sustaining Capacity for Inclusive Informal STEM Learning Opportunities for People with Autism Spectrum Disorder”, funded by the AISL program at NSF. After a successful first round where we teamed up with four museums and informal learning and autism experts to make STEM learning more accessible for folks on the Autism Spectrum (ASD), we’re expanding nationally in Phase 2.


The team will take what worked well in Phase I and blend it with the latest in digital learning. We are designing a hybrid model that keeps the quality of the first phase while finding ways to create avenues for national participation. In collaborations with folks at the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC), informal learning partners at SciTech, some tech-savvy online learning professionals, and the museums of Phase 1, we are co-creating training that is as impactful online as it is on the ground.


Why This Matters

The project team is committed to working with informal learning institutions to create spaces where everyone feels welcome and gets the most out of STEM learning. By creating learning opportunities for staff across various ISL organizations—from museums to zoos to libraries — in how to better support individuals on the Autism Spectrum, we’re not just opening doors to learning; we’re building bridges to new experiences, confidence, and maybe even future careers in STEM.


What will happen in Phase 2?

Phase 2 is about creating sustainable, long-term change. We plan to work with museums across the country, including in cities like Phoenix, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, and Miami, to co-create a hybrid training program, ensuring it fits the needs of a wide variety of informal science organizations across the country.  We’ll include online learning, a community of practice, in-person coaching, and tailored resources for continued support. The result will hopefully be impactful changes that help staff support learners on the Autism Spectrum better, from understanding ASD better to using the most effective ways to engage community members on the Autism Spectrum. We will also be working to create a dedicated online learning site, we’ll share all the best bits of what we learn, create space for informal science organizations to share their own best practices, offer free resources, and create spaces for connection with other organizations seeking to do similar work.


This is more than just a project for us; it’s a movement towards a more inclusive world where STEM learning is for everyone. By coming together, learning from each other, and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, we’re setting the stage for a future where everyone, regardless of ability or background, can engage in the excitement of free-choice learning.


Stay tuned for more updates, and feel free to reach out to Dr. Verbeke ( if you want to learn more or get involved.


This work is supported by the NSF Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, award number 2314100.

Posted Mar 14, 2024