Science in the City: Culturally Relevant STEM Education by Bryan A. Brown of Stanford University is a true gift to the science education community. I’ve been using a YouTube video of Dr. Brown discussing science, language and identity for several years in workshops and with my pre-service science teachers (see embedded video below). Dr. Brown has taken the ideas in the short video and built them into an engaging, readable and important book.
Science in the City is an easy read largely due to Dr. Brown’s writing style and his use of story to couch the ideas that he’s presenting to us- he’s also modeling for us what he wants us to do with students! The stories are everyday events that illustrate language, identity, and race. One of my favorites is from early in the book when Dr. Brown reminds us of a post-game interview that Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston gave on TV in 2014 following a victory in the national championship game. After the interview Mr. Winston’s interview was met on social media with a barrage of criticism including a tweet saying, “Am I listening to English?” This criticism was countered by tweets from Lebron James and Reggie Bush praising Mr. Winston’s leadership, interview skill, and talk. Dr. Brown puts this in front of us to make the point that schools tend to value “academic English” and that many folks working in educational systems have a bias for (and against) certain types of talk. We are often missing out on the brilliance of students of color based on these biases.
If you have done any work on student discourse in science this book will resonate with you and likely push you to think deeper about how to interrogate educational systems for more culturally relevant language practices in science classrooms.
Here is a quote from the book that illustrates what Science in the City is all about:
If there is a single message that serves as the foundation for this book it is the idea that there is no cultural distance between students of color and a successful science education.
The final chapter of the book does a clear and concise job of presenting a small but powerful set of instructional practices to implement in science classrooms:
- Disaggregate Instruction
- Generative Formative Assessment
- Culturally Based Cognitive Apprenticeship Instruction
- Technology as a Cultural Mediator
I highly recommend adding Science in the City to your set of science education resources. I’d also love to hear from anyone else who has been digging into this book.
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OVERVIEW: My daughter Cece is 9 years old and last fall we were walking through a Barnes & Noble (yes they still have those!) and we saw a display for a picture book titled Cece Loves Science. My daughter saw the display and shouted, “I DO love science!”
I’ve been using science and engineering related picture books for two decades- both with children and adult learners. I look forward to thinking about how I will use Cece Loves Science (by Kimberly Derting and Shelli R. Johannes, illustrated by Vashti Harrison) with the preservice and inservice teachers I support.
The picture book tells the story of a young girl of color, Cece, who loves to ask questions and figure things out. In the story, Cece and her best friend Isaac, are trying to figure out the best way to conduct an investigation involving her dog, Einstein.
This book has been out for over a year and I’m interested to hear how folks have used this picture book with students. I’d love to hear some stories.
PURPOSE: In the last few years we have seen a much-needed increase in the number of STEM-focused picture books with main characters representing populations who have traditionally been marginalized in STEM- females and people of color. Cece Loves Science is another resource to add to our toolbox that highlights the exceptional thinking of young ladies and positions them as the determined problem-solvers that they are.
AUDIENCE: children, adults, educators, teacher educators, librarians, informal science educators
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
OVERVIEW: My daughter Cece is 8 years old and the other day we were walking through a Barnes & Noble (yes they still have those!) and we saw a display for a picture book titled Cece Loves Science. She saw the display and said, “I DO love science!”
I’ve been using science and engineering related picture books for two decades- both with children and adult learners. I look forward to thinking about how I will use Cece Loves Science(by Kimberly Derting and Shelli R. Johannes, illustrated by Vashti Harrison) with the preservice and inservice teachers I support.
The picture book tells the story of young girl of color, Cece. who loves to ask questions and figure things out. In the story, Cece and her best friend, Isaac, are trying to figure out the best way to conduct an investigation involving her dog, Einstein.
PURPOSE: In the last few years we have seen a much-needed increase in the number of STEM-focused picture books with main characters representing populations who have traditionally been marginalized in STEM- females and people of color. Cece Loves Science is another resource to add to our toolbox that highlights the good thinking of young ladies and positions them as the determined problem-solvers that they are.
AUDIENCE: children, adults, educators, teacher educators, librarians
My friend and colleague, Tom Hathorn (@thathorn), recently launched his own website and blog that is focused on telling the ongoing story of his equity-focused science leadership learning and professional development. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Tom on multiple equity-focused events and I highly recommend adding his site to your equity and science bookmarks.
HERE is the link to Tom’s site.
HERE is the link to Tom’s blog.
There is still room at this impactful upcoming event in the South Puget Sound Region. See below for description and registration link.
The Bethel School District and the Puyallup Watershed Initiative are partnering to offer this 2-day workshop on Phenomena & Units for Environmental Justice.
Title: Phenomena & Units for Environmental Justice.
Location: Graham-Kapowsin High School
Dates: June 25 & Aug. 22 , 2018 (8:00 – 3:30)
Presenters: Lia Wetzstein, Emily Pinckney, Tom Hathorn
● Inspire students with local phenomena and problems that matter to their community.
● Support student aspirations toward STEM-related careers.
● Integrate NGSS PEs about humans in relation to the environment (LS2, LS4, ESS2, ESS3).
● MS & HS Science Teachers (all subjects), Administrators
● School Districts in the South Sound LASER Alliance
What: Day 1
● Meet & study local environmental justice issues → Analyze the systems & who’s affected.
● Unpack natural & human structures → How did things get this way? What keeps it stable?
● Use the NGSS engineering cycle (D-D-O) → Solving environmental problems = engineering .
● Discover & use local STEM issues → Use students’ interests & cultural-community practices.
● Begin planning → Activities or small units that utilize local phenomena or problems.
What: Day 2
● Share emerging units → Give & get ideas.
● NSTA resources for teaching controversial topics → See opportunities & pitfalls.
● Use students’ voices → Guide the dialogue & discussions.
OVERVIEW: The STEM Teaching Tools group recently updated two of my favorite resources and I want to make sure everyone has the “latest and greatest”.
PURPOSE: These two tools are some of the best resources available for identifying prompts, tasks, and questions that guide students in engaging in the science and engineering practices and crosscutting concepts as they solve problems and explain phenomena. These tools have been updated and revised as feedback has come in from the field and other partners.
AUDIENCE: teachers of science, administrators, curriculum directors, curriculum developers, pre-service teachers, teacher educators, PD providers, & others
Click to access STEM-Teaching-Tool-30-Task-Formats-for-3D-Assessment-Design-v2.pdf
Click to access STEM-Teaching-Tool-41-Cross-Cutting-Concepts-Promptsv2.pdf
OVERVIEW: The Smithsonian Science Education Center and the Shell Oil Company have collaborated to compose a document titled- Fostering Change: Ideas and Best Practices for Diversity in STEM Teaching in K-12 Classrooms. This playbook provides support in trying to diversify the STEM teaching ranks.
PURPOSE: Here is some wording directly from the playbook that describes the purpose of the document.
The nation faces challenges to achieve excellence in its science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workforce; and, the importance of fostering diversity in STEM teaching is fundamental to this success. Several theories support the importance of having educators in the classroom who reflect the background and experiences of the students in their schools. Across the nation, there are programs that aim to increase the number of STEM teachers or programs to increase the number of teachers from diverse communities at large, but very few programs aim to do both at the same time. In 2015, an effort was launched by Shell and the Smithsonian Science Education Center to bring together individuals and organizations with the unique ability to foster change through a series of activities designed to assist school districts in implementing systemic reform to increase diversity in their STEM teaching community.
Together, these experts identified several opportunities that can impact a school district’s path toward increasing the diversity of STEM teachers in the classroom, while preparing these same STEM teachers for science leadership opportunities. One identified need was a playbook of recommended discussions, practices, and tools that a school district could use to foster change. This playbook will provide school district decision makers and change makers with a starting point to begin their efforts. The playbook is designed to be responsive to district needs and will be revised as we collect feedback from school districts and individuals who offer best practices for success.
I recommend skimming the Table of Contents to get a clear overview of the playbook.
This is a thoughtfully designed resource to add to your toolbox of equity-focused science resources.
AUDIENCE: school district leaders, human resource departments, college of education administrators and recruiters, supporters of equity and diversity in STEM teaching and learning
OVERVIEW: The Advancing Coherent and Equitable Systems of Science Education (ACESSE, or “access”) project recently released an Open Educational Resource (OER) module for professional learning on equitable 3Dimensional formative assessment tasks in science.
AUDIENCE: science professional development providers, teacher leaders, school district leaders, teacher educators, etc
PURPOSE: The module provides all the resources needed to provide a 60-90 minute session of professional learning on Equitable 3D Formative Assessment. You will find slides, facilitation notes, and embedded resources. Lots of good stuff here… I’m looking forward to more impactful resources from this project.
LINK: Click HERE to learn more about this resource and to find all of the materials.
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are explicitly designed with equity and diversity in mind. I fear, however, that in places where NGSS implementation is being rushed (Let’s just “plug in” our new standards) that the critical focus on equity and diversity might get lost. A Framework for K-12 Science Education and the NGSS call out equity as a pivotal issue in K-12 science education that we must wrestle with. But what do we mean by equity? Skim the text box below from the Framework and see how many different definitions you can find for equity.
A Framework for K-12 Science Education (The foundational document of NGSS) states:
WHAT IS EQUITY? (BOX 11-1)
The term “equity” has been used in different ways by different communities of researchers and educators. Equity as an expression of socially enlightened self-interest is reflected in calls to invest in the science and engineering education of underrepresented groups simply because American labor needs can no longer be met by recruiting among the traditional populations. Equity as an expression of social justice is manifested in calls to remedy the injustices visited on entire groups of American society that in the past have been underserved by their schools and have thereby suffered severely limited prospects of high-prestige careers in science and engineering. Other notions of equity are expressed throughout the education literature; all are based on the commonsense idea of fairness—what is inequitable is unfair. Fairness is sometimes considered to mean offering equal opportunity to all. The most commonly used definition of equity, as influenced by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education (1954, 1955) and Lau v. Nichols (1974), frames equity in terms of equal treatment of all.
I highly recommend that everyone reads chapter 11 from the Framework on Equity and Diversity in Science Education. It is imperative that every student in the United States understands the core ideas of science, engages in the critical thinking of real scientists and engineers and uses the intellectual tools of the crosscutting concepts to make sense of the natural world.
I’ll be sharing some of my favorite tools on Equity and Diversity in the coming weeks but you may want to peruse this resource from STEM Teaching Tools– a brief titled- How can we promote equity in science education?
OVERVIEW: In the April 2016 issues of all of the NSTA journals there is a FREE article titled: Addressing Student Diversity and Equity. The article describes 4 aspects of NGSS that are particularly relevant to diversity and equity issues:
- 3Dimensional performance expectations that focus on explaining phenomena and solving problems- When the phenomena and problems are nested in home and community contexts, students are able to leverage their everyday experiences and language to engage with the learning
- Inclusion of engineering- solving problems in local contexts makes science relevant and improves interest in STEM fields
- Science & Engineering Practices- promote rich discourse and practice in the talk of science and allow students to share thinking using “less than perfect English”
- Crosscutting Concepts- enable students to make connections among multiple science ideas
The article then goes on to discuss NGSS Appendix D and the 7 Diversity and Equity Case Studies (PS- these are now much more difficult to find with the nextgenscience.org reorganization) These resources need to be as foundational in teacher professional development as understanding the 3 Dimensions and the anatomy of a standard.
AUDIENCE: K-12 teachers, administrators, parents, curriculum directors, PD providers, community members, etc
PURPOSE: Provides an overview of Equity & Diversity resources in NGSS. Makes a case for the importance of an Equity & Diversity focus during NGSS implementation.