NSF Grant Award Supports Research in Inclusive and Diverse Learning Environments

Associate Professor of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering Simi Hoque has been awarded a two-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to explore how a college-based summer science program with hands-on workshops can encourage young women in STEM fields to become advocates for sustainability.

Hoque’s research will focus on the Drexel-based Eureka! program, a five-year program that, beginning in the summer before their eighth grade year, builds confidence and skills through hands-on opportunities in STEM fields. The program also incorporates sports and physical fitness, personal development, and college and career readiness. Hoque has been working with students in Eureka!, which is a partnership with Girls, Inc. of Philadelphia, since the program’s formation in 2017.

“This NSF grant will give us an opportunity to take this work to the next level,” Hoque says. “The proposed research will examine ways to motivate and engage Philadelphia-area middle school girls in sustainability science to build advocacy for climate change and environmental justice, which is the most pressing existential threat facing life on this planet.”

The research, Hoque hopes, will build her expertise in STEM education, positioning her to conduct longer-term research on creating engaging content for the next generation of STEM educators. It will also explore how Eureka’s STEM content, which is focused on inquiry-based activities and builds towards a community organized sustainability project, cultivates a sense of sustainable citizenship and environmental civic action in participants.

“This NSF grant will give us an opportunity to take this work to the next level.”
Dr. Simi Hoque

Hoque also aims to broaden participation in the program among young women from underrepresented and low-income communities. It is her hope that instilling a larger sense of inclusivity and diversity within learning environments will yield a richer learning environment and a better understanding of sustainable literacy.

“I’m so happy we’re finally getting some funding from NSF to support our outreach,” shares Hoque. “With help from graduate and undergraduate students, as well as co-organizer [assistant director of outreach and development] Kim Spina, we have been working to facilitate the growth of underrepresented girls in the STEM pipeline.”