Honors Theses

Date of Award

Spring 5-4-2022

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis


Nutrition and Hospitality Management

First Advisor

David H. Holben

Second Advisor

Ellen Ossorio

Third Advisor

Anne Bomba

Relational Format



Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education is a vital subsection of primary education which focuses on imparting knowledge to foster STEM literacy and ultimately bolster the workforce of STEM related fields (Holmlund, 2018). Due to both geographic and socioeconomic challenges, STEM education in rural areas suffers from a lack of engaging learning opportunities and contributes to a shortage of STEM professionals originating from rural areas (Munn, 2019)(Murphy, 2020). Rural areas such as Calhoun County, MS, where the pilot program associated with this thesis was conducted, do not have the means to support interactive learning institutions such as aquariums and science centers, which can hinder the youth of the area’s interest in STEM (Munn, 2019). Informal learning environments play a valuable role in STEM education. Encountering STEM concepts in an informal learning environment gives students the opportunity to make ‘real world’ connections to concepts that are traditionally taught in abstract ways and encourages students to form a personal connection and interest in the topic they are exploring (Vela, 2020). The pilot program associated with this thesis sought to engage K4-8th grade students with a reading and food-based STEM education curriculum of four weekly lessons which were pre-packaged and distributed in a drive-through format due to COVID-19. Upon completion of the program, participants were asked to denote their satisfaction with the program on multiple levels: 1) I liked doing this science activity (LIKED); 2) I learned something new by doing this science activity (LEARNED); 3) I would do this science activity again (AGAIN); and 4) I liked reading the book as part of the science activity (READ). A 3-point “Thumbs up” Likert scale (Yes, Maybe, No) was utilized. The majority of respondents were male (72/158, 45.6%), White (127/158, 80.4%), non-Hispanic (127/158, 80.4%), and in grades K-3 (132/153, 86.3%). Respondents were highly satisfied (thumb’s up rating) with each aspect of the program: LIKED (156/158, 98.7%); LEARNED (156/158, 98.7%); AGAIN (153/158, 96.8%); READ (149/156, 95.5%). Each program was evaluated individually, yielding high satisfaction levels.



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