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(Designing for) learning computational STEM and arts integration in culturally sustaining learning ecologies

Dionne N. Champion (College of the Arts, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA)
Eli Tucker-Raymond (Department of Language and Literacy, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Amon Millner (Department of Engineering, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, Needham, Massachusetts, USA)
Brian Gravel (Department of Education, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, USA)
Christopher G. Wright (Department of Teaching, Learning and Curriculum, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)
Rasheda Likely (Bagwell College of Education, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia)
Ayana Allen-Handy (Department of Policy, Organization and Leadership, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)
Tikyna M. Dandridge (School of Engineering Education, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA)

Information and Learning Sciences

ISSN: 2398-5348

Article publication date: 27 November 2020

Issue publication date: 15 December 2020




The purpose of this paper is to explore the designed cultural ecology of a hip-hop and computational science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) camp and the ways in which that ecology contributed to culturally sustaining learning experiences for middle school youth. In using the principles of hip-hop as a CSP for design, the authors question how and what practices were supported or emerged and how they became resources for youth engagement in the space.


The overall methodology was design research. Through interpretive analysis, it uses an example of four Black girls participating in the camp as they build a computer-controlled DJ battle station.


Through a close examination of youth interactions in the designed environment – looking at their communication, spatial arrangements, choices and uses of materials and tools during collaborative project work – the authors show how a learning ecology, designed based on hip-hop and computational practices and shaped by the history and practices of the dance center where the program was held, provided access to ideational, relational, spatial and material resources that became relevant to learning through computational making. The authors also show how youth engagement in the hip-hop computational making learning ecology allowed practices to emerge that led to expansive learning experiences that redefine what it means to engage in computing.

Research limitations/implications

Implications include how such ecologies might arrange relations of ideas, tools, materials, space and people to support learning and positive identity development.


Supporting culturally sustaining computational STEM pedagogies, the article argues two original points in informal youth learning 1) an expanded definition of computing based on making grammars and the cultural practices of hip-hop, and 2) attention to cultural ecologies in designing and understanding computational STEM learning environments.



This work is supported through a grant from the National Science Foundation, DRL #1842272 and 1842278. Part of this project was originally carried out at TERC in Cambridge, MA.


Champion, D.N., Tucker-Raymond, E., Millner, A., Gravel, B., Wright, C.G., Likely, R., Allen-Handy, A. and Dandridge, T.M. (2020), "(Designing for) learning computational STEM and arts integration in culturally sustaining learning ecologies", Information and Learning Sciences, Vol. 121 No. 9/10, pp. 785-804.



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