Fung Fellowship receives NSF grant to engage older adults in informal STEM learning through design

The grant will help fund pioneering research on the effects of informal STEM learning among older adults.

The Fung Fellowship for Wellness and Technology Innovations, the UC Berkeley Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) and the Lawrence Hall of Science are proud recipients of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant for Informal Learning: Investigating Measurement of STEM Engagement and Advocacy in Older Adults.

Here, we discuss the grant’s purpose, what it means for the Fung Fellowship and the impacts it can have on enhancing STEM advocacy and learning in older adults.

What is the grant for?

The Fung Fellowship has a unique stake given their experience in designing for older adult populations. The grant allows the Fung Fellowship to investigate characteristics for success in informal STEM learning (ISL) opportunities and examine what motivates older adults to participate. For example, does participation in ISL opportunities lead to continued learning and future science advocacy, such as mentoring students in STEM or participating in science-related communities or civic engagement?

What is the Fung Fellowship doing with the grant?

“The design framework is not only an accessible way to problem solve,” says Jennifer Mangold, Director of the Fung Fellowship and Principal Investigator on the grant, “but it also allows students and older adults to bring unique perspectives and gain empathy in a way that is amplified through generations working together. Older adults find this aspect of design challenges compelling, as they have a wealth of life experience that may be beneficially applied to the challenges; in fact, acknowledging and drawing upon that experience is a fundamental principle of older adult learning. ”

“The ‘intergenerational’ part is absolutely deliberate,” Jennifer says. “We could have just included older adults in the design challenge as they are the focus of the research,, but we’ve found in past partnerships with OLLI that the intergenerational pairing creates a really rich learning environment for both the older adults and the undergraduates.”

A group of Fung Fellows gathers around a laptop on a table; a poster on the table says “#Fungfellows”.
A group of Fung Fellows gathers around a laptop on a table; a poster on the table says “#Fungfellows”.

What is the impact of the grant?

Jennifer highlights the broader societal impact of the grant, “As people live longer, this is an incredible step in providing pathways for older adults to continue lifelong learning and as a result remain engaged in societal issues and their own communities.”

To learn more about the grant, visit the NSF website.

Connect with Jennifer.

Learn more about the Fung Fellowship at fungfellows.berkeley.edu.

The Fung Fellowship at UC Berkeley is shaping the next generation of health, conservation, and technology leaders for a better world. 🌱

The Fung Fellowship at UC Berkeley is shaping the next generation of health, conservation, and technology leaders for a better world. 🌱