3 educators standing at the edge of a vernal pool holding an ice cube tray and plastic spoon. They are looking through matter scooped up from the vernal pool and documenting it on the community science protocol sheet.

Celebrating Community Knowledge

June 1, 2023

One of the foundational principles of connected learning ecosystems is community knowledge; the idea that no one educator needs to have all the answers and expertise, that collectively we have all of the assets and knowledge needed to help support and engage youth in authentic and relevant STEM learning. This core belief has shown up in many ways across the project.

Team Teaching Model

Our partner at UMaine 4-H Cooperative Extension hosts many volunteer run youth programs. They are always on the search for volunteers who have both a background in STEM and also the skill of being able to translate that into engaging youth experiences. Through the LENE network and our collective shift toward engaging community knowledge, it became clear that instead of looking for someone who had it all, they could pair folks with highly complementary skill sets and expertise. Thus, the vision for this team-teaching model emerged as a way to both deliver top tier experiences for youth and also as a way for educators to build their confidence and sense of connection to their local educator community.

This pilot program recruited and trained librarians as 4-H Positive Youth Development (PYD) volunteers who then partnered with volunteer STEM content providers to bring special interest programming to their local libraries. The Librarians and STEM volunteers worked together to design and deliver hands-on programs at 6 libraries over the course of the summer, engaging over 128 youth. One partnership focused on bees and included experiences at a local high school bee club demonstrating bee gear, building model bees, and at the library as well, exploring their pollinator garden in connection to climate change. In another community, youth learned how to identify different Maine seabirds and how researchers count eggs and band birds for identification and tracking.

The pilot was a huge success and partners continue to look for ways to celebrate and leverage collective community knowledge.