Increasing Student Interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)

Project Overview

The Colorado Consortium for Earth and Space Science Education (CCESSE) is a consortium of multiple partners in Southern Colorado who share a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education and outreach. The goal of CCESSE is to increase the quality and quantity of informal science learning opportunities available to students and to spark their interest and participation in STEM fields. The long-term goal is to increase the “STEM pipeline” of adults who seek careers in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics. CCESSE is partially supported through a grant provided by the United States Air Force Academy and provides educational activities to over 13,000 students each year while collecting pre-post evaluation data on at least 4,000 of these students annually.

Research on the effects of informal science learning opportunities highlights the value of informal STEM education in motivating students—both mainstream and historically disadvantaged students—to pursue STEM-related degrees in college (Allison & Hibbler, 2004;Rahm & Ash, 2008). Informal science education is a focus for the Challenger Learning Center of Colorado, the lead program owned and operated by CCESSE. The Challenger Learning Center provides multiple on-site and distance education space science learning experiences. Other partners include, or have included, the following organizations: (1) Project Lead the Way, a series of week-long summer student camps focused on STEM learning for both middle and high school students, (2) Peak Area Leadership in Science (PALS) and EleSTEMary, two groups of educators who organize Saturday professional training events for other educators in grades preK – 12, (3) the Science Olympiad, a series of “competitive” science events held at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS), and (4) Cool Science, a program designed to promote knowledge and interest in the STEM fields through on-site demonstrations at elementary schools across Southern Colorado.In 2012, evaluation data were analyzed for over 4,100 students who participated directly in CCESSE events (while thousands of other students participated indirectly through instruction received by their teachers during summer PALS workshops).Over 200 teachers participated either directly or indirectly in one of the six programs previously described. Quantitative and qualitative results demonstrate that the events were extremely successful. Details provided in the attached report illuminate the project’s success.The interim 2013 evaluation report consists of data collected by the Challenger Learning Center of Colorado. A research manuscript, based on the data in this report, is currently being reviewed for publication in an internationally recognized Science Education journal.

Research Team


  • Allison, M. T. & Hibbler, D. K. (2004). Organizational barriers to inclusion: Perspectives from the recreation professional. Leisure Sciences, 26(3), 261-280.
  • Rahm, J. & Ash, D. (2008). Learning environments at the margin: Case studies of disenfranchised youth doing science in an aquarium and an after-school program. Learning Environments Research, 11, 49-62.