Building more equitable spaces in STEM through game-based learning; the case of Science in Space: How to Telescope

Carolina Cruz-Vinaccia ( Université McGill )

Science in Space: How to Telescope is an informal science learning program in which girls and gender non-conforming kids of ages 10-12 learn about astronomy by building their own telescopes in Minecraft. Founded in 2022 by the Trottier Space Institute, McGill Physics, and Dell Technologies/Girls Who Game, Science in Space is designed to foster a sense of belonging and community, thus increasing student engagement and confidence in STEM and ultimately reducing attrition from later STEM studies. The program is inquiry-based and student driven; students ultimately decide which astronomical phenomena they’d like to study and design a telescope to do so. Facilitators and mentors deliver the basics of astronomy through game-based activities, providing the foundation students need to design and build their telescope. Science in Space has successfully run eight times in the Montreal area over the last two years. In this talk, we will first describe the program and the values underpinning it. We will then discuss how we gather and incorporate student and mentor feedback in an iterative process, and how this feedback has been applied to improve the program. Finally, we will discuss what we’ve learned and the impact that it has had on both the students and mentors, along with our future hopes for this program.