Data Science Learning for Middle School-aged Girls in Informal Gaming Clubs

Promoting girls’ data science learning and interests through informal gaming


Data is increasingly important in all aspects of people’s lives, from the day-to-day to careers and civic engagement. Preparing youth to use data to answer questions and solve problems empowers them to participate in society as informed citizens and opens doors to 21st century career opportunities. Ensuring equitable representation in data literacy and data science careers is critical.

For many girls underrepresented in STEM, developing a “data science identity” requires personally meaningful experiences working with data. This project aims to promote middle school-aged girls’ interest and aspirations in data science through an identity-aligned, social game-based learning approach. The goal is to create a more diverse and inclusive generation of data scientists who see data as a resource and who are equipped with the skills and dispositions necessary to work with data in order to solve practical problems.

The project will develop a model for broadening participation and promoting interest in data science by integrating game-based learning with informal club participation to create a rich and supportive social context around a narratively rich game world. With FableVision Studios, we will develop a multiplayer, data-rich virtual world called “The Isles of Ilkmaar.” We will use the game to support learning in two informal club contexts: 1) casual gaming groups called “Gaming Guilds” and 2) structured data science learning experiences called “Guided Guilds,” facilitated and mentored by women in data science recruited through the University of Miami’s Institute for Data Science and Computing.


We will examine impacts of gameplay and club experiences on participants’ attitudes toward and interest in data-rich futures. Using design-based research, we will focus on two primary questions:

  • Across gameplay and club experiences, in what ways do participants engage with data to pursue personal or social goals?
  • How do gameplay and club experiences shape girls’ perceptions of data, data science, and their fit with data and data science?

Participants will be 250 middle school-aged girls recruited in Miami, Florida, and Yolo County, California, through local and national girls’ organizations.

Project Funder
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 2214516. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
Principal Investigator
Lisa Hardy, Jennifer Kahn, Gary Goldberger
Project Partners
FableVision Studios, University of Miami, Yolo County Library System, TechGirlz, Code/Art, Zaniac
Years Active