Nurturant STEM

Where learning is nurturant by design

Nurturant is a design research project funded by the National Science Foundation. Educational designers and researchers at Digital Harbor Foundation and the Earl Center for Learning & Innovation at BU Wheelock are working in collaboration with hospital staff at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital to design a suite of mobile makerspace learning environments in three pediatric settings throughout the hospital

Our Mission

Nurturant STEM Learning is dedicated to designing opportunities for exploring STEM ideas through learning experiences that nurture personal well-being and creativity. The project emphasizes the importance of attending to health and well-being as critical components of learning. Through patient-centered co-design at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital, the project is developing innovative and adaptable learning environments that support robust and personally-meaningful STEM learning for hospitalized youth.

Vision Statement

The main objective of the project is to develop a pedagogical framework that explores the role of STEM disciplines and learning environments with particular attention to nurturance, wellness, and whimsy, especially for healthcare workers and the youth and families they serve. 

Layering three frameworks as a constellation for nurturant design:


Culturally Affirming Identity Resources


Simultaneous Material Sensing


Multimodal Learning

Our Partnership

At Digital Harbor Foundation, we are dedicated to fostering digital equity, promoting diversity in the tech sector, providing innovative STEM education, and championing the belief in technology for the public good. Our mission revolves around unlocking opportunities and ensuring access for all. With a strong focus on community, our heart lies in Baltimore, where we actively engage with local individuals and organizations. However, our impact goes beyond geographical boundaries as our programs have reached across the United States and even internationally.

The Earl Center for Learning and Innovation at BU Wheelock is a collaborative space for social dreaming and radical hope. A space where youth and adults, learners and teachers, researchers and designers join together in expansive inquiry to develop educational experiences animated by commitments to creativity, dignity and justice. The Earl Center is a participatory research community, committed to developing learning ecologies creatively responsive to the complexities of the world as it is and as it could be. Working at intersections of STEM, humanities, and the arts, Earl Center educational researchers and designers design ecologies where youth grow as engaged and critical authors of connected social futures.

The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) was established in 1823 in partnership with the first public medical school in the nation. Today, it is the flagship academic medical center at the heart of UMMS. The medical staff comprises nearly 1,200 attending physicians who are faculty members at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, as well as 900 residents and fellows in all medical specialties. All attending physicians at UMMC are faculty members at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.



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The primary sponsor for Nurturant STEM Learning (formerly Young Patients as Innovators) is the National Science Foundation (NSF), Division of Research on Learning (DRL) and Education and Human Resources (EHR). This project is supported under Advancing Informal STEM Learning Grant #2005942 (Digital Harbor Foundation, Inc.). 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.