Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




In the United States, the Latine community is the fastest growing minority group. Projections estimate that by the year 2060, they will represent 28% of the total population. Yet, Latines continue to be underrepresented and underserved in STEM fields and careers. Providing equitable informal STEM learning opportunities to young children may be a way to increase access and interest in STEM, to address the broader goal of increasing representation. Importantly, for these learning experiences to be truly equitable they must be meaningful and engage everyday cultural practices. Guided by a strengths-based approach, the current study examines how oral stories as a cultural resource can be harnessed to support Latine children’s engagement in a tinkering activity. The project explores whether and how setting an at-home tinkering activity within a story context engenders rich parent-child conversations that provide engineering and spatial learning opportunities for young children.A total of 52 Latine families were randomly assigned to either hear a story as a frame for a hands-on tinkering activity, or to engage in the same tinkering activity without the story. After families finished tinkering, a researcher elicited the children’s reflections about their tinkering experience. Approximately two weeks after the activity, children were asked to share their tinkering reflections with a second researcher. Parents and children in the story condition talked more about engineering during tinkering, and these children also talked more about engineering during both reflections than children in the no-story condition. The story context also supported parents’ spatial language during tinkering and children’s spatial language in their reflections immediately after tinkering. These findings suggest that integrating stories into tinkering activities is a promising future direction for the creation of more equitable informal engineering and spatial learning opportunities for Latine children and families.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Available for download on Wednesday, July 26, 2023