El Círculo Familiar - Rationale

El Círculo Familiar builds a family – school – community – university ecosystem of early STEM learning and Latino family engagement in east Los Angeles by bringing together resources from USC Viterbi Adopt-a-School, Adopt-a-Teacher (VAST), USC Annenberg Critical Media Project, PBS SoCal Early Learning (a CPB-PBS Ready To Learn station), the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and Local District East principals and teachers in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The ecosystems approach leverages each partner's diverse assets in "un círculo familiar" to effectively and sustainably impact the under-resourced families we serve. Our círculo embraces the families at three schools participating in USC's BOTS program in a series of Saturday playshops (not workshops) and field trips will connect parents and students through the resources and outreach experience of this comprehensive partnership.

For schools in Boyle Heights, significantly inferior access to quality computer science education exacerbates any already existing barriers to STEM education. According to Margolis et al in Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race, and Computing, the rapid growth of digital technology and district funding shortages impair innovation and disproportionately hurt student learning computer science in our target area compared to south and west Los Angeles.

Consequently, El Círculo Familiar strengthens connections between the various activities, relationships, and environmental contexts through which early elementary students respond to the unique challenges of STEM education in Boyle Heights. Our approach is informed by the experience of each partner as well as by research conducted by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and New America, including STEM Starts Early: Grounding STEM Education in Early Childhood (2017) and Cantor et al in Malleability Plasticity, and Individuality: How Children Learn and Develop in Context. Because many caregivers experience, as McClure et al note, "anxiety, low self-confidence, and gendered assumptions" concerning STEM topics, El Círculo Familiar provides high quality training and support, including "more robust [teacher] training and PD" and increased parental access to high quality educational media, to help institute STEM learning and critical media literacy (6). El Círculo Familiar further supports STEM learning through activities aimed at helping families contextualize the role of technology and STEM in their lives. As such, the program will help families explore cultural ideas about identity - including assumptions about technological proficiency - by examining the interplay of STEM topics and issues they encounter in their everyday lives.

In Aprendiendo en Casa: Media as a Resource for Learning among Hispanic-Latino Families, Barron et al find that Hispanic-Latino parents perceive the effectiveness of engagement with high quality media on student learning; however, bridging the home and school environments is often constrained by lack of resources to access such materials through computing devices and language barriers (5, 10). El Círculo Familiar aims at this root need by working with principals, teachers, and families to integrate technology and media literacy into daily lessons, activities, and imaginative play at school, at home, and in the community of east Los Angeles.