Discipline: Science and Mathematics Education
Subcategory: Computer Science & Information Systems
Angel U. Ortega - The University of Texas at El Paso
Co-Author(s): Ann Gates, Monika Akbar, and Mary K. Roy, University of Texas at El Paso
Studies by the U.S. Census Bureau conclude that although Hispanics make up 15 percent of the workforce, only 7 percent of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) jobs are occupied by Hispanics, making Hispanics a minority in the STEM workforce. Students disregard science subjects because the science curriculum lacks relevance to students’ experiences and lives. In order to address the issue of underrepresentation of minorities in STEM, we propose the development of an educational game that incorporates cultural relevancy to STEM lessons and activities in the form of ethnic-specific characters, stories, factoids, and locations. Students can learn more when a curriculum integrates the local context and their personal experiences with science methods to understand the world. The goal of the Sol y Agua Project is to create a culturally-relevant educational game to attract middle school students to STEM fields and careers in the Southwest United States, tailored to minorities, specifically Latinos. The game has a theme of water sustainability and stewardship with a focus on information analysis, negotiation, and decision-making. Studies have shown that Hispanic student’s decision to declare a STEM major and earn a STEM degree were uniquely influenced by student’s gender, ethnicity, first-generation status, and high school percentile. The game activities have been developed using the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills Standards. The Sol y Agua project was keen in incorporating the knowledge of local scientists and local Native American’s perceptions of stewardship as the team sought to communicate activities and knowledge that would help local students manage water resources effectively using STEM knowledge. A study case was conducted by Santiago to gather these various points of view. Community members that participated in the study were selected through purposive sampling. Understanding individual values, logics, and background provide insight into multiple viewpoints on water sustainability in El Paso-Rio Grande area, which was used to develop the game. Current development aims at identifying key factors that facilitate immersion and retention of knowledge on a cultural level. The project aims at integrating specific, targeted local environmental and cultural information that could help increase local students’ interest and dispositions toward environmental themes. Future development of the project includes testing of the game prototype in local schools, as well as possible expansion of the prototype to other languages and regions.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): National Science Foundation; Smithsonian Latino Center; Cyber-ShARE Research Center, The University of Texas at El Paso
Faculty Advisor: Ann Gates, email@example.com
Role: I am responsible for the software engineering and educational components of the research project. I am also in charge of story-lining, character development, and activity incorporation in gameplay.