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Identity, or “an individual’s sense of self," is defined “a set of physical, psychological, and interpersonal characteristics” that are unique to each individual (APA Dictionary of Psychology). Defining one's identity takes place “within and is influenced by multiple timescales” (Carlone, 2012), such as a period of years, months, or even weeks. The purpose of this study was to examine the possible ways in which middle school participation in an archaeological STEM afterschool program might shape and shift their identity as a STEM person. Data was collected from twenty-four students in grades sixth through eight who attended two rural middle schools located in different towns in upstate New York. Students were given a booklet where they were asked to identify themselves with one or more identities and write a reflection as to why they chose the identity(ies) based on their experiences with the activities that day. While most students identified themselves as “investigators” and “observers”, quotes from their student booklets also indicated their individual sense of “bravery” and “logitian.” These identities were most often documented in “high” STEM activities, such as the study of animal remains (scientific observation), mystery boxes (hypothesis testing), and excavation sites (pythagorean theorem). Together, these three (or four) aforementioned “identities”, along with the activities in which they were most prevalent, highlight possible instances in which a student’s participation in an archaeological STEM afterschool program shaped their developing identity as a STEM person.



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Developing Middle School Students’ Identities as a STEM Person through an Archaeology Afterschool Program