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YESTEM project

Invincibility Collaborative: Community Partnerships for Justice-oriented STEM Education

The Invincibility Collaborative brings together scholars, teachers, youth, and community educators in Lansing, MI (led by Professor Angela Calabrese Barton, University of Michigan) and Greensboro, NC (led by Edna Tan, University of North Carolina Greensboro) communities. For over a decade, we have committed to working within and across public schools, community-based organizations, and disciplinary communities to promote a more just world through STEM education. 


Our collaborative takes the stance that teaching and learning should be justice-oriented. This means that learning opportunities should support deep and meaningful engagement for all students in STEM in ways that matter in their lives and communities. The outcomes of learning should also be transformative for youth and their families, such as creating opportunities for youth to use their developing STEM expertise to take actions on issues they care about.

Key questions:

  • How might researchers, educators, youth and community members collaborate to design for justice-oriented teaching and learning in STEM? 
  • What are its potential outcomes, individually and collectively, across settings and over time? 
  • What tools and practices best support educators in imagining and enacting such teaching, and in what ways? 

Our partnership is grounded in humanizing, critical and participatory ethnographic and design-based research approaches. We believe that youth and educators ideas and expertise is central to re-imagining STEM education in new and transformative ways. 

Examples of key projects and their outcomes include:

  • Engineering for Sustainable Communities in Middle Schools: I-Engineering has supported over 18 teachers and over 1000 students in two states in co-developing, refining and implementing “engineering for sustainability” project-based investigations. This work reveals how to design for youth’s rightful presence in STEM and support critical STEM agency. Funded by NSF.
  • STEM-rich Maker Education leverages design-based research to study the pedagogical practices and instructional designs which support youth of color in equitable and consequential making in four community-centered makerspaces in two cities in the US. One insight from this work is in how youth are supported in “making that matters” in sustained ways, and the role of community cultural wealth in this process. Funded by NSF and WT Grant Foundation.
  • The YESTEM Project leverages design-based implementation research, survey and ethnography to develop understandings of how and under what conditions youth from non-dominant communities in cities in the US/UK participate in informal science and how they connect these experiences towards pathways into STEM. Funded by NSF and Wellcome Trust.

Boys & Girls Club of Lansing 
Boys & Girls Club of Greensboro
Impression 5 Science Center
Lansing Public Schools, MI
Guilford County Public Schools, NC
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Michigan State University
University College London 
University of Michigan

Angela Calabrese Barton, [email protected]