Have you ever wondered why mathematics appears to be a more challenging and less approachable subject than English or history? STEM concepts occur everywhere in our world—from the symmetry of snowflakes to architecture, city planning, the technology that powers our phones and computers, and the medicine that keeps us alive.
Educators often confine ABAR teaching to reading, writing, and history; yet incorporating social justice into STEM subjects matters not only to equity in general but also plays a crucial role in paying the education debt (Ladson-Billings 2006) owed to students from under-resourced backgrounds. A major aspect of cultivating culturally responsive classroom communities is to create opportunities for our students to see themselves within the content they study. Often this looks like building a diverse classroom library and inviting students to write about their experiences and interests, but it is just as important for students to see how they can take on the roles of mathematicians, scientists, engineers, and innovators in their everyday lives.
When teachers approach content from an ABAR lens, we have to break down the content itself, as well as our teaching strategies. If you’re a STEM educator whose classroom has operated along traditional structures and instruction, teaching from an equitable and inclusive perspective can feel like an enormous change, but there are small steps to take in order to shift your classroom culture.
Make a Plan to Connect STEM to Students' Lives
When it comes to content, devote time to auditing your curriculum for diverse perspectives as well as real-world applications. Can all of your students see themselves reflected in STEM subjects across their social identities, and can you create opportunities for students to learn about inventors and creators of identities different from their own? For example, you might look at teaching lessons featuring individuals such as Sophie Germain, Alan Turing, and Mae Jemison, as well as the discoveries made by Indigenous and Western Asian civilizations.
Many STEM classes are guided by textbooks that are adopted by schools or entire districts, and classes often require teachers to put in additional time for extensive preparation and collecting materials. Prescribed curricula and textbooks are teaching tools and can offer students and teachers access to background information, as well as a scope and sequence and pacing guide for teaching certain topics. Becoming an ABAR-focused STEM teacher does not mean we abandon teaching concepts like subtraction and the water cycle. It simply means that we shift the lens through which we teach our content.
When you plan ahead for your STEM units, you might find it helpful to consider each topic through the perspectives of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Are you representing diverse perspectives and contributions in this field? Are your students learning about how this topic can be used to create an equitable society, or how it has been misused as a way to promote oppression? Are your teaching strategies inclusive for all learners?
Take a look at the sample STEM planner and notice how it starts with the standards followed by some thinking across diversity, equity, and inclusion. Now, try it yourself with the blank STEM planner. Save, print, and share these planners with your educator community.
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Adapted from Start Here, Start Now. To learn more, visit Heinemann.com.
Start Here, Start Now addresses many of the questions and challenges educators have about getting started with antibias and antiracist work, using a framework for tackling perceived barriers from a proactive stance.