The STEAM-Active (Project Number: 2021-1-ES01-KA220-HED-000032107) project is funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be held responsible for them.

Pathways of interest and participation: How STEM‐interested youth navigate a learning ecosystem

Partners' Institution
University of Peloponnese
Year of publication
Educational stage
Secondary Level
Journal name
Science Education
Thematic Area
STEAM intervention (teaching strategies, evaluation...), Definition and characteristics of STEAM
This study examined the dynamics of the STEM interest and participation pathways of three youth in an under-resourced, urban community. These three cases offer insights into how youth with a strong interest in a STEM topic or activity perceived the resources that were available to them in a STEM learning ecosystem and highlight the affordances and constraints each faced in pursuit of their interests. They interviewed each youth 4–5 times during their middle school and high school years (ages 11–14). The analysis reinforces the unique nature of youth interest pathways, but also common factors that contributed to each of these pathways. The ability of youth to navigate the ecosystem depended on the availability and accessibility of both in- and out-of-school learning resources related to their interest, and the support they received from significant adults in their lives in terms of both social, cultural, and financial capital. This study offers important insights into how STEM learning ecosystems might best be structured to enable more youth to develop strong, enduring interests in STEM.
Relevance for Complex Systems Knowledge
This research paper aims to understand how youth develop interest and participate in STEM, as well as the factors that help them persist (or not) over time, including resources and opportunities, both in and out of school. The SUN afterschool program, administered by the Immigrant Refugee Community Organization, offered a variety of after-school STEM programs during the study period.

For the purposes of this paper, in which the researchers examine STEM interest and participation pathways in depth, they focused on youth who participated in at least three interviews during the project; 13 youth matched these criteria.
Point of Strength
Point of Strength
case studies, learning ecology, learning ecosystem, STEM interest, STEM learning pathways, STEM participation
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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