Category Archives: equity & diversity

NSTA Article: Exploring Phenomena

The recent article “Exploring Phenomena: Connecting Science Learning” from NSTA’s Connected Science Learning journal dives into the importance of connecting science education to real-world phenomena. The article emphasizes that when students investigate and explore natural phenomena, they develop a deeper understanding of scientific concepts and practices. It highlights the significance of incorporating phenomena-based instruction, where students engage in authentic and meaningful investigations that spark curiosity and foster scientific thinking. A video HERE provides a case study of teachers engaged in phenomenon-based investigation at The Exploratorium. The article provides insights into how educators can design and implement phenomena-based lessons, showcasing examples and success stories from classrooms. The authors underscore the value of connecting science learning to phenomena, as it enhances student engagement, promotes inquiry-based learning, and cultivates a deeper appreciation for the natural world. A great piece to add to your phenomena-based science instruction resources.


Video: Not the Science Type

The short documentary (30 minutes) video Not the Science Type -created by 3M- features stories of four female scientists. The video shares their experiences with science education and their perceived ability to understand scientific concepts. The video emphasizes the idea that anyone can be interested in science and the stories intentionally confront stereotypes and biases. It highlights the importance of promoting a more inclusive and accessible approach to science education that highlights different ways of thinking and a diversity of backgrounds. The documentary also shows the ways in which the scientists’ work intersects with everyday life and emphasizes the importance of curiosity and a willingness to ask questions. Overall, the video serves as a call to action to promote scientific literacy and encourage more people to challenge the status quo and to engage with science and technology.

3M has a page on Not the Science Type HERE where you can watch the full video, see a snapshot of the four featured scientists, and access a Discussion Guide about each scientist’s story.

NSTA Article: Enhancing Science Lessons to Support Multilingual Students’ Engagement in Science & Engineering Practices

I’ve been collaborating with several science teachers on ways to support multilingual students in the science classroom. In a recent workshop we examined the NSTA Science Scope article Enhancing Science Lessons to Support Multilingual Students’ Engagement in Science & Engineering Practices by Maria Gonzalez-Howard, Sage Andersen, & Karina Mendez Perez. We found the article to be very helpful and the text provides strategies for science teachers to create an inclusive classroom environment that supports multilingual students’ sensemaking. The article suggests using the 5E instructional model (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate) and provides specific strategies for each phase of the model (I really appreciated how this was organized). The strategies include providing opportunities for small-group talk before whole-class discussions, highlighting cognates in science, and allowing students to use both content-specific and everyday registers to express their ideas. There is an emphasis on the importance of teachers understanding why and how a certain strategy is helpful to meaningfully apply the strategy to their own instruction in different contexts. At the end of the day, the authors aim to help science teachers create a classroom environment that supports multilingual students’ sensemaking and improve their learning experiences. I highly recommend checking out this article.

Book: Teaching Science to English Learners

Teaching Science to English Learners by Stephen Fleenor and Tina Beene is a useful resource for educators seeking to support multilingual learners in their science classrooms. The book provides practical strategies and examples for adapting science lessons to meet the needs of non-native English speakers, with a focus on building students’ language skills and scientific literacy at the same time.

The book is concise (not very long), well-organized, and easy to navigate, with clear explanations and examples of how to modify science instruction for English language learners. The book covers a range of topics, including language development, cultural sensitivity, and instructional approaches, and includes case studies and practical examples throughout.

Teaching Science to English Learners is written for educators at all levels, providing a wealth of information and strategies for supporting English language learners in science classrooms. I appreciate the book for its practicality and relevance, and I find that the strategies and techniques outlined in the book can be easily applied in real-world teaching situations.

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Tech Boy

I don’t talk about it much on this site but I’m not only a huge science education nerd, I’m also a huge everyday nerd. I read and collect graphic novels and comic books. I watch anything Marvel, DC or Star Wars related and I definitely enjoy playing video games.

So when I recently stumbled on a STEM-focused comic book that was authored by a young person- I was intrigued and knew that I had to share it here.

Thirteen year-old DeJuan Strickland also enjoys video games and comics. He noticed that there were only a few superheroes that looked like him. He noticed that there weren’t many comics that explicitly connected to STEM…so he created his own superhero comic and character- Tech Boy!

You can hear DeJuan talk about his vision and his project in the news clip embedded below. You can order your own copy (or even a classroom set) of Tech Boy HERE. It also sounds like DeJuan has been hard at work and has another comic coming soon…so keep your eyes open for more from DeJuan.

Have You Seen the Latest STEM Teaching Tools?

If you are someone who follows this blog then you most likely are already a fan of the brilliant STEM Teaching Tools site. If it’s been awhile since you’ve visited then I highly recommend heading there now. The last several Practice Briefs are powerful (not that the previous ones were not) and tackle some important topics in equity-focused science instruction. Here are a few of my favorites to get you started:

UW Climate & Environmental Justice FREE Course & Resources

Philip Bell and Nancy Price have shared a graduate course they taught at the University of Washington on Climate Justice and Environmental Justice in Education during winter quarter 2021. The entire course has a nicely organized Google Site built to tell the story of the learning. You will be able to walk through the 10 sessions using the embedded slides, readings and videos. There is a nicely organized set of Resources used as well as a Wakelet that organizes many other Climate Justice resources.

In order to get a good sense of the course before digging in, I recommend checking out the following:

  • About the Course: This gives you a 1-page overview with guiding questions and key resources
  • Course Readings: Scroll over the page to get a preview of the sessions. Pay attention to the quotes and session titles
  • Projects: Preview the projects that small groups of graduate students engaged in

I can imagine this resource being used in multiple ways:

  • Work through the sessions independently as a learner
  • Assemble a small group of colleagues and collaboratively move through the course together
  • Harvest important resources for your own learning and work
  • Use this as a model for teaching your own course or unit on Climate and Environmental Justice

My Top 4 Science Education Books of 2020

2020 has provided many of us with some extra time for reading. While I haven’t always used this time wisely (I’m looking at you Netflix and Nintendo Switch) I wanted to share the 4 books that I’ve discovered and revisited the most in 2020. The following are in no particular order.

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

This is not a traditional education book. You will not find a bunch of acronyms or quick strategies for teaching indigenous students. Instead you will find a series of stories that will change the way you think about your relationship with the natural world, with scientific understanding and with indigenous ways of knowing and being. You may find that your relationships with plants will be forever changed. I notice that I want to return to this book over and over- I intentionally leave it out in my office so that I have easy access to it. Not just because it is so good and captivating but because these lessons are deep and require constant revisitation in order to take hold in me. In 2020 this book really brought me a comfort and a connectedness with nature that I think I needed. One of my favorite reads in the last several years.

Ambitious Science Teaching by Mark Windschitl, Jessica Thompson, and Melissa Braaten

This book has become a touchstone for so many best practices in science instruction. While this is not a new book it is one that still feels fresh and innovative (because it is). In setting a standard for rigorous and equitable science instruction this book demands that we examine our core practices in science instruction and replace traditional methods with science learning that is focused on big ideas that allow students to uncover and revise their ideas based on evidence. This is not a book to just “take away” a couple of cool strategies to implement. This is about a culture shift in how we design and deliver science learning experiences that actually engage our students in the practices of science.

Science in the City by Bryan A. Brown

I have mentioned Science in the City previously and I just can’t say enough positives about it. Dr. Brown skillfully uses stories to ground this work and to teach us about the relationship between language, identity, and culture. If you give this book the opportunity, it can help you to change the way you think about your instruction in a diverse science classroom. I feel like this book makes a great partner to Ambitious Science Teaching and helps to expand and push on the importance of language and talk in science learning as an equity issue. This is an essential book to add to your equity and diversity resources and I’d argue that even if you are not a teacher of science that you will find this book to be meaningful and important to your work supporting students.

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

How to be An Antiracist is a popular book and for good reason. I’m assuming that many of us in education have purchased or received this book. Hopefully it isn’t just sitting on the shelf. This resource (like Braiding Sweetgrass above) demands repeat readings…especially if you are a white person like myself. Becoming an antiracist educator isn’t simple work. This book isn’t like a vaccine where you read it once and then have “immunity”. It requires doing some work on ourselves (which I think is always challenging for us as human beings) and then interrogating the policies and beliefs in whatever domain we work in from education to health care to non-profit, etc. Dr. Kendi has an amazing talent for using his own life story to introduce us to the work of antiracism and to guide and support us to go deeper in our own journey to becoming antiracists. If you haven’t picked this up or if you haven’t looked at it since the summer then I highly recommend digging in.

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Indigenous Education Tools

Indigenous Education Tools is a growing site (check back for new resources often) that offers teaching tools and resources that address the “root causes of inequities for Native children and families, and by supporting the development of innovative successful educational pathways.”

A few highlights of the current resources on the site include:

  • A set of short briefs in the style of STEM Teaching Tools that dig into topics in education of Indigenous peoples:
  • A set of videos led by leaders in Indigenous education. See interview with Michael Tulee below as an example:

  • A set of Learning Materials (from ISTEAM) based around Water, Food, Birds and Plants. Everything on this site is powerful but I find these materials to be the highlight for me personally. These materials highlight well-crafted activities and also provide models of what well-designed learning activities might look like when designed for Indigenous learners. See the set on Water below:
  • Online workshops to engage in asynchronously

I also highly recommend adding @IndigenousSTEAM to your Twitter feed so that you can stay on top of the latest from this group.

Learning from Dr. Ibram X. Kendi

IMG_5043I’m assuming that many of us in education and science education are spending time this summer digging into (or revisiting) Dr. Ibram X. Kendi‘s book How to be an Antiracist. In future posts, I’ll share some of my thoughts and learnings from the book and some connections I see with science education. But for now I just wanted to “introduce” Dr. Kendi for those who may not know of his work.

Below you will find links to a variety of online resources that range from short appearances on talk shows to podcasts and webinars. While it’s impossible to summarize the depth of Dr. Kendi’s work in a few words I think in education a good start is the idea that it’s not enough for us to be not racist…we need to be actively antiracist and thoughtfully interrogate curricula, assessments, policies, procedures, discipline structures, (and so much more) in our educational systems.

A. Dr. Kendi on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

B. Dr. Kendi on the Armchair Expert podcast with Dak Shepard

C. Dr. Kendi on a recent 1-hour online workshop (this link may expire in a month from posting)