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Growing STEMs of the Buried Seeds: Developing STEM Identities of Mexican American Girls Across Time and Space

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Latinas, their families, and their communities carry rich incredible resources and practices that can be leveraged to learn in STEM. Despite this strength in diversity, national reports describe that Latinas are not successful in their STEM academic achievement. The purpose of this study is to ameliorate this disconnect and understand the cultural resources and practices, including language, that Mexican American girls leverage to engage in STEM learning. Drawing on social practice theory and employing a critical ethnographic case study, I ask how do Mexican-American girls generate identity resources, during identity work, across different settings of home, school, and afterschool? Multiple sources of data were collected in an afterschool STEM program for 5th graders. Analysis of the identity development of the 4 case study girls revealed two patterns: (a) the relative nature of identity work, and (b) the importance of having a productive role to engage deeply in STEM activities. Based on these findings, I made three claims. First, having a role becomes opportunities to generate identity resources. Second, building relationships through dichos and convivir generate relational identity resources. Third, recognition work is complex and relative when taking on different perspectives of people. Three implications for future research are discussed.

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This item is under embargo until December 4, 2025.