Institute of Education


Youth Equity + STEM

An international collaboration to enhance learning for all youth.

A graphic representing the equity compass. STEM in large letters. People holding balloons and a sign which read: social justice, equity and black lives matter. Text at the bottom: Serves and belongs to the whole community.

UK Project Director: Professor Louise Archer

Youth Equity + STEM is a four-year Science Learning+ Partnership project (2017-2021) funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Wellcome, and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

YESTEM addresses fundamental equity issues in informal Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning. 

Access to, and opportunities within, Informal STEM Learning (ISL) remain limited for youth from historically under-represented backgrounds in both the United Kingdom and the United States. This project brings together researchers and practitioners to focus on the experiences, practices and tools that will support equitable youth pathways into STEM.


The major goal of this partnership is getting practitioners and researchers - through working with youth through design-based implementation research, survey and critical ethnography - to develop new understandings of how and under what conditions they participate in ISL over time and across settings, and how they may connect these experiences towards pathways into STEM.

Research agenda

The YESTEM project responds to three challenges at the intersections of ISL research and practice in the United Kingdom and United States:

  1. lack of shared understanding of how youth from historically underrepresented backgrounds perceive and experience ISL opportunities across national contexts, and the practices and tools needed to support empowered movement through ISL
  2. limited shared understanding and evidence of core high-leverage practices that support such youth in progressing within and across ISL
  3. limited understanding of how ISL might be equitable and transformative for such youth seeking to develop their own pathways into and through STEM.

Working across conceptual frameworks and ISL settings (e.g. science centres, community groups, zoos) and universities in four urban contexts in two different nations, the partnership will produce a coherent knowledge base that strengthens and expands research and practice partnerships, builds capacity towards transformative research and development, and develops new models and tools in support of equitable pathways into STEM at a global level.


The project will result in

  • new understandings of ISL pathways that are equitable and transformative for youth from historically underrepresented backgrounds
  • a set of high leverage practices and tools that support equitable and transformative informal science learning pathways (and the agency youth need to make their way through them)
  • a strengthened and increased professional capacity to broaden participation among youth from historically underrepresented backgrounds in STEM through informal science learning.
UK team

Principal Investigator




The project builds on a previous funded partnership and will be carried out by research and practice partnerships in four cities: London & Bristol, UK and Lansing, Michigan & Portland, Oregon, US, involving university researchers from University College London, Michigan State University, Oregon State University / Institute for Learning Innovation, and practitioners in informal STEM learning settings, such as science centres, zoo and community-based organisations.

University Partners

UK ISL Partners

US ISL Partners


Research papers linked to Youth Equity + STEM

Research briefs from an earlier planning phase, Youth Access & Equity in ISL: Developing a Research and Practice Agenda (2015-2016)

Resources and tools

The Equity Compass

MediaCentral Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Player/8j4daJ4b

YESTEM Insights

Research and practice tools for guiding equitable and transformative pedagogies in Informal Science Learning.

Insight 1

The Equity Compass helps users to adopt a social justice mindset when developing and reflecting on their policy and/or practice. It prompts users to consider multiple dimensions of equity, as represented by the eight segments of the compass. 

Insight 2

Core Equitable Practices are pedagogical practices that support youth’s learning and engagement in STEM in empowering ways. When educators engage in Core Equitable Practices, they take the stance that educators and youth are co-learners, co-disruptors and co-creators of a more just world with and in STEM.

Insight 2.1

Recognizing, an anti-racist practice, values youth identities, cultural practices, community wisdom, personal experiences, and racial histories as central to STEM engagement. Scientists are people first, and valuing youth as whole people supports youth-positive STEM learning.

Insights 2.2

This practice makes visible the ISL terrain—the institutions, people, resources and opportunities—as they currently exist, while simultaneously noticing the rich assets youth bring for Re-shaping the terrain in powerful ways.

Insights 2.3

•  Core Equitable Practices (PDF, 0.6MB)

Co-designing is a practice that seeks to disrupt this status quo by advocating ISL design with and not just for young people. Co-designing is one way that youth can contribute to Reclaiming STEM.

Insights 2.4

Reclaiming space restructures power relations and centers youth in shaping the social and physical spaces of STEM. Programs open to Reclaiming are more likely to meet youth needs and interests, by supporting youth ownership.

Insights 2.5

Shifting narratives about what and who ‘counts’ in STEM is an urgent, crucial part of equitable, meaningfully inclusive ISL practice. ISL practices can purposefully challenge and change stories about what ‘counts’ as STEM, who does STEM and how STEM ought to be done.

Insights 2.6

When we are 'Critically Being With', we are making a choice to meet someone where they are, instead of expecting them to meet us where we think they should be. This relational and ethical practice foregrounds the present experiences of youth. This shifts relationships and insights by humbly moving towards common ground with youth.

Insights 2.7 

Learning is not only about what and how people think, but also about what and how people feel. Embracing humanity is a relational and ethical practice that values individual learners as fully human: who they are, not who they’re expected to be. This practice involves seeing humanity in others, our interdependence, and how each of these is shaped by context and histories.

Insights 2.8

When authority is shared, youth have opportunities for their knowledge and practices to be centred in ISL. Youth are viewed as experts because of who they are and what they know.

More YESTEM Insights to follow. To keep up-to-date with more resources from our project, please join our mailing list.

Accessible versions

Please contact us at s.godec@ucl.ac.uk if you would like an alternative accessible version (e.g. Word) of any of the documents on this page. 

Blog: Youth Equity + STEM (YESTEM)

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