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UMD Project Helps D.C. Students Build "Sci-Dentities"

January 10, 2014

Lee Tune 301-405-4679

Courtesy of iSchoolCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – Researchers from the University of Maryland's College of Information Studies (iSchool) are working with school librarians in D.C. to encourage inner-city students to create superhero identities, write science fiction-inspired stories, and make videos and graphic novels, all incorporating real science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Led by iSchool assistant professors June Ahn and Mega Subramaniam, and funded by the National Science Foundation, the Sci-Dentity project seeks to explore how science fiction and other creative narrative projects can be designed and used to help young people imagine the exciting ways that science impacts and shapes human life. 

The project is also designed to explore the factors that may encourage under-represented youth to incorporate scientific ideas into their evolving identities as students and individuals.

"Our goal is to explore ways to work with kids who wouldn't necessarily identify with science or technology, engineering and math and figure out ways to help them engage with those ideas and find relevance in them," says Ahn.

Courtesy of iSchoolAnother component of the project is the context of school libraries.  The Sci-Dentity project is run as an after-school program in partnership with school librarians and library/media programs in D.C. public schools. The researchers are examining how school libraries can act as a secure and supportive physical space, allowing young people to explore their imagination.

The program also includes a virtual space, a private online social network, where students can share, remix and comment on each other's work to build community and their own "Sci-Dentities." Through the use of this site, the team hopes to find how social media can play a role in getting young people interested in STEM subjects.

"The biggest lesson we've learned from that project," says Ahn, "is how new media can open up opportunities for students to express their ideas and identify with scientific concepts, while not be constrained by traditional literacies such as reading and writing levels."

Additional information about the Sci-Dentity project can be found at


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