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Open Access Publications from the University of California

It got me back to science and now I want to be a plant scientist: Arts-integrated science engagement for middle school girls

  • Author(s): Mark, Ph.D., Sheron L;
  • Constantin, Geena M;
  • Tinnell, Terri L;
  • Alexander, Olivia
  • et al.

While middle school is a critical phase for science career development for all students (Maltese & Tai, 2009), this stage presents considerations for females in science, in particular. During middle school, the decline in science interest is greater for females than males and, for most students, the level of science interest developed during this middle school stage will persist throughout their lifetime, thereby influencing science career interests and attainment (Todd & Zvoch, 2017). This study aimed to stimulate and sustain middle school female students' interest in science study and careers by transforming opportunities for their participation in classroom science in ways that better appealed to and supported female science students. Research has shown that collaborative and active engagement with peers, hands-on and tangible modes of engagement, significant real-world connections, and choice have been effective in supporting middle school female students in science. Arts-integration has been explored as a cohesive framework that could potentially incorporate each of these characteristics into a science learning environment for five middle school female students. Pre- and post-interviews served as data to investigate the impact of a four-week arts-integrated science unit on the students’ interests in science and science careers. The students explicitly discussed the positive effects of collaborative and active engagement with peers, hands-on and tangible modes of engagement, and significant real-world connections on their interest in science and science career planning. While they did not explicitly acknowledge choice, all of the girls indicated thorough enjoyment from learning and engaging in science in the ways presented in the study. All of the students advanced in their career planning as a result of experiences in the unit, either in terms of science careers or the arts. Findings are discussed in light of related research and future lines of inquiry.

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