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Abstract

It is well known that strong extracurricular STEM programs provide multiple arenas for students to expand on classroom curriculum, complementing STEM skills with creative thinking and open-ended problem solving. It has been shown that there is a relationship between the number of STEM clubs students participated in and their choice of STEM major (Sahin, 2013). Considering financial problems, including budget cuts, it gets really challenging for schools to provide a plethora of clubs. For this reason, it would be very beneficial for K–12 schools to know if certain clubs are more effective in changing attitudes toward STEM majors, and therefore help strengthen the pipeline for STEM careers.

A quantitative study was designed to investigate if any specific STEM club amongst the ones offered at the Sonoran Schools (SS), a charter school system, created a significant difference in students’ perception toward STEM fields and majors. The data were collected through an online survey of 1,167 students across six charter schools, serving grades K–12 under the same charter system, at the end of the 2015 school year. Students who were not enrolled in STEM-related extracurricular activities were considered as a baseline. The data have shown that extracurricular STEM club involvement has significantly impacted the attitude toward STEM perception. The analysis of the data also showed that it is possible to close the notorious gender and ethnicity gaps in STEM perception and provide a diverse student population to the STEM pipeline. The hypothesis that ‘‘there is a range of impact from clubs, and some are more impactful than others’’ has been disproved to show that there is no significant difference between the clubs when it comes to their impact on student STEM perception. The findings of this study are expected to help K–12 stakeholders, administrators, club organizers, and mentors to use their resources effectively.

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