Digital Youth Divas Join STEM Ecosystem

Digital Youth Divas Join STEM Ecosystem

Digital divasMembers of Digital Youth Divas participate in hands-on projects (DePaul University/Stephanie Nikolas)

Digital Youth Divas, an after-school STEM program for middle school girls,  goes far beyond project-based learning. The goal is to create a full “learning ecosystem” with mentors, parental resources and community support.

Approximately 500 girls have participated in the program since Digital Youth Divas launched in 2013. Recently, the National Science Foundation awarded coordinators another grant to sustain and grow the program, which is led by Northwestern University’s Nichole Pinkard, associate professor of learning sciences at the School of Education and Social Policy;  and Sheena Erete and Denise Nacu of DePaul University's College of Computing and Digital Media.

As a collaborative program spanning universities, Digital Youth Divas underscores how institutions can come together to address an urgent real-life issue. The program targets girls of color, because women of color continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields.

Digital Youth Divas has three components, or levels: students, families - the “Caring Adult Network,” and community organizations. About 45 students participate in the fourth- and fifth-grade program, while another 15 girls attend the sixth- to eighth-grade Divas Circle program.

College-age mentors lead the sessions, which feature hands-on design projects and an online social network platform. The online platform includes narrative stories that follow characters in a virtual Digital Youth Divas group who must overcome various challenges. Students work together to problem-solve.

Parents and other caregivers in the audience develop their own networks thanks to workshops and resources designed specifically for them. In January, DePaul's College of Digital Media hosted a tour and lunch for the Caring Adults Network. 

These events help the Digital Youth Divas team learn more about the needs of caregivers.

“I’ve witnessed self-awareness and self-confidence soar as youth dive into their STEM identities,” says Miranda Standberry-Wallace, the program’s community relations and engagement manager at Northwestern's Office of Community Education Partnerships. “The girls present their works proudly at Divas showcases, a train-the-trainer style event in which the girls teach their audience how and why their projects exist and the value placed on them."

Read the full story on the DePaul University website.

By Kelsey Schagemann, DePaul University
Last Modified: 3/8/20