Paper No. 22-4
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM
IMPROVING ENGAGEMENT OF MINORITY K-12 STUDENTS IN PALEONTOLOGICAL OUTREACH AND EDUCATION INITIATIVES: A CASE STUDY FROM FLORIDA
Despite increases in the numbers of women and minorities in STEM fields (including paleontology) over the past several decades, such groups are still underrepresented across all fields of science. Multiple education studies have shown that gender- and race-stereotypical images alienate and discourage women and minorities from pursuing science careers. Rather, the research indicates that students are more likely to enter careers in which they identify with role models in that profession. To engage more female K-12 students in learning about paleontology, the Florida Fossil Hunters (FFH) avocational fossil club began an annual “Women in Paleontology Day” event in Orlando, FL, in 2014. The yearly event features female paleontologists at various career/research stages, as well as interactive display tables run by (mostly) female members of regional avocational paleontology clubs. Over time, the event has grown larger, with more and more K-12 students attending; however, the relative proportion of minority and underprivileged students in attendance has been low. In 2016, the FFH club partnered with FOSSIL (Fostering Opportunities for Synergistic STEM with Informal Learners) – a project funded by the National Science Foundation – in writing a successful small grant proposal to improve the reach of the “Women in Paleontology Day” program to underserved K-12 audiences in the Orlando area. Here, we report upon efforts made toward creating a more diverse and accessible event for 2017 (and beyond). This case study example can serve as a model for museum or university groups looking for ways to connect with the amateur/avocational community and to improve engagement of underserved audiences.