Cultivating Science: Examining the Free-Choice Science Learning Networks of Urban Gardeners

Free-choice and interest-driven activities are a highly significant source of science learning for adults throughout their lifespans. The Cultivating Science project will advance understanding about how adults living in the same geographic area (Alameda County, CA), with the same science-related interest (gardening), interact with and draw on resources and spaces in their communities to support their free-choice learning. The main goal of this project is to better understand STEM learning ecologies from the perspectives of diverse users (gender, race, socioeconomics), using innovative network research methodologies to shed new light on which resources (people, organizations, and places) free-choice learners access to pursue a specific science-related interest. This will lead to a greater understanding of how a community’s STEM ecosystem can and does support a diverse cross-section of learners. These findings will be of interest to practitioners and researchers as it will return information on exactly who in an urban community is being served by which STEM-learning resources and spaces. With this insight, community organizations will have data to inform how to strengthen their communities’ infrastructure for supporting free-choice learning.


This work will strategically advance the informal STEM learning field by 1) contributing to a better understanding of the resources free-choice interest-driven adult STEM learners access, describing the barriers learners perceive and how/if the accessed resources differ by gender, race, or socioeconomics; 2) determining the feasibility of the proposed sampling approach to gathering data from community members who engage in free-choice, cross-context, STEM learning and who may have been missed by prior research efforts; and 3) generating evidence-based insights for informal science education practitioners and researchers about how to better support diverse populations of free-choice interest-driven STEM learners.

Project Team: Elysa Corin Ph.D., and David D.Meier M.S