Together We STEM: An Urban Community Lab’s Collaborative Internship and Social Distancing

Marlee Joy Tavlin, Fordham University


Despite declining interest in STEM, there is extensive research which demonstrates that out of school time (OST) learning helps motivate students to persist in STEM and that it has an especially positive influence on typically underrepresented students. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic forced many OST institutions to shut down in March 2020; however, a few programs decided to continue virtually. This study utilized a primarily qualitative phenomenological approach to expand on a heterogenous description of an urban community lab’s science program entitled Biorocket which is driven by students’ personal interests and requires their collaboration. Their continued experience during the COVID-19 pandemic was explored as well as how this unique OST STEM model and context influenced their motivation in STEM. Participants were recruited from the 2021 Biorocket community. Data collection included semi-structured interviews, observation, and retrospective surveys. Inductive data analysis was utilized with the qualitative data and surveys were statistically analyzed. The seven themes which emerged highlighted (a) the importance of teamwork, (b) allowing for failure, (c) valuing students and their interests, (d) an expanded notion of what science is and who scientists can be, (e) returning to the lab, (f) an experience that goes beyond Biorocket, and (g) the importance of mentorship. Findings highlight the power of creating a community in which students felt as if they belonged and how these positive aspects were able to transfer to multiple environments, ultimately motivating interns to pursue STEM. Reliability and validity were accomplished through verbatim transcription of interviews, triangulation, and member checking.

Subject Area

Multicultural Education|Science education

Recommended Citation

Tavlin, Marlee Joy, "Together We STEM: An Urban Community Lab’s Collaborative Internship and Social Distancing" (2022). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28863891.