September 22, 2021

EDC to Use Themed Telenovela to Enhance Informal Science Learning for Latinx Families

EDC has received a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) to study a culturally responsive approach to broadening participation of Latinx families in informal science learning by using La Fuerza de Creer (The Power of Believing), a popular Spanish-language telenovela that reaches 7 million U.S. viewers.

In the La Fuerza-STEM project principal investigator (PI) Joy Lorenzo Kennedy and co-PIs Alexia Raynal and Jessica Young are collaborating with Latinx families, Univision, and Literacy Partners to develop a five-episode telenovela that will share activities families can use to spark children’s interest in science. The series will also provide positive role models of Latinx scientists.

Drawing on the telenovela, and working closely with parent and scientific advisory boards, the study team will design a five-session workshop series to support families in engaging in science learning with their children. The three-year project will involve 300 families and will culminate with a randomized controlled trial that will investigate the efficacy of the La Fuerza-STEM workshops in changing families’ informal science attitudes and practices.

“Studies have shown that many barriers exist for Latinx families to access informal science experiences and thus STEM careers,” said Kennedy. “We are delighted to partner with Univision and Literacy Partners to launch and test this promising approach to addressing these barriers.”

La Fuerza-STEM is truly innovative in its approach of targeting the STEM attitudes and practices of Latinx parents as a means of inspiring their young children to pursue STEM pathways,” said NSF program director Lori Takeuchi. “And with the telenovela’s reach into millions of U.S. homes, the potential of this project for broadening participation in STEM is substantial.”

La Fuerza-STEM is the latest addition to EDC’s long-standing work to close opportunity gaps for emergent multilingual learners. Co-PI Young is currently leading an NSF-funded initiative in Connecticut that is supporting Latinx families in fostering children’s science inquiry, language and literacy development, and positive attitudes toward STEM.

“In La Fuerza-STEM, families will be our vital partners every step of the way—from script development to workshop design,” said Young.

Raynal added, “We are designing La Fuerza-STEM to tap families’ power—la fuerza—to engage children in exploring science.”