Wyden, Merkley: High Desert Museum to Receive $1.2 Million Grant for STEM Education in Rural Oregon

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today announced that Oregon’s High Desert Museum in Bend will receive more than $1.2 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to expand STEM education for rural students and their families.

“Income or zip code should not determine your access to culturally relevant STEM education,” Wyden said. “I’m proud to see an Oregon institution like the High Desert Museum center the community in their program development, which has the potential to spark a lifelong passion for STEM among Oregon kids. This is a model for the nation as we work to engage more students from all walks of life in STEM fields.

“Every parent wants the same thing for their child: a strong foundation for a happy, prosperous life,” Merkley said. “That foundation must include a twenty-first century education, and I’m grateful that this funding is headed to Bend where it will help us put that crucial piece of the puzzle in place for rural students and their families. I will keep doing all that I can to secure similar investments for more communities throughout our state, so we can continue working together to deliver the high-quality education Oregonians deserve.”

This project, entitled “Examining the Efficacy of a Co-Designed Culturally Sustaining STEM Learning Ecosystems Model for Youth, Their Families, and Informal Educators in Rural Communities,” tasks STEM educators to co-develop with members of rural communities a year-long series of STEM-based workshops specifically for rural youth and their families.

Each series will reflect the cultural knowledge, connections, and resources specific to each rural community. In addition, the informal STEM educators will receive training on facilitating the culturally sustaining workshops and experiences.

Engagement with these workshops will offer evidence-based insights about how to better provide opportunities to informally learn about STEM that engage and reflect diverse rural communities. Ultimately, this research has the potential to broaden STEM participation among youth in rural communities.

“The High Desert Museum has a deep commitment to creating STEM learning opportunities in rural communities—this project takes our work to another level of impact, co-creation with communities and scholarship,” Dana Whitelaw, Executive Director of the High Desert Museum, said. “We are so excited to get started on this great work and this team of collaborators and significant federal award makes it possible.”

Learn more about the NSF grant here.