Making the Most of Students’ Human and Social Capital

Teaching Science for Social Justice: Chapter 5 – Relevant Science: Activating Resources in Nonstandard Ways

Summary: Students at the Hope Shelter engaged with science by building their own picnic table. As part of this process, students developed their designs on paper, created small models, and then constructed their table from scratch. Different students were able to contribute and excel at different stages of the process. This chapter emphasizes the importance of understanding the intersection of human and material resources, as each student offers his or her own set of skills and experiences to projects that contribute to learning. Going off of this, it is also very important to understand the intersection between social and human capital so that students can feel a sense of ownership and pride over their work, so that each student feels they have contributed to the project by adding their own talents and skills to a specific aspect of the end goal.

Connection to class:

  • Everyone comes to the classroom with different experiences and knowledge, based upon the circumstances they are born into, directly relating to the idea that inequalities are perpetuated by their family background (Hochschild, 2003).
  • Cultural capital (Lareau, 1987), directly dictates the different types of “relevant science” one chooses to teach in school. The example of picnic tables may not be otherwise be relevant in a different context based upon the community and infrastructure of other schools.

Highlights of Group Discussion:

  • When it comes to creative projects, children are more interested when they see that something they create is worthwhile.
  • It is important to pull in students’ interests and variety of talents.
  • When providing students with feedback, teachers should validate students’ feelings, goals, and aspirations while also exposing them to alternative options and opportunities.
  • It is important to make students feel included in projects even if their friends live far away or do not attend the same school. Students, such as Ruben, can be reluctant to join in an activity if they feel that they have no friends to share it with.

Questions to Pose:

  1. When it comes to creative projects, what is the role of the teacher? At what point, if at all, should the teacher intervene and modify the student’s potentially flawed plans?
  2. How can we reinforce positive behavior in the classroom? Ruben was sent to behavior modification counseling for not writing his sentences. How can we, as teachers, help students want to do their work?

Mission Statement:

There was no change in our mission statement aside from the qualifications made from last week’s readings.

Next Week’s Reading:

Chapter 6 – Transformations: Science as a Tool for Change: Under the same assumptions as last week in that later chapters refer back to stories in previous chapters and hence a chronological approach towards our readings were adopted. Through this reading, we will be reading more personal stories of individual students with a focus on geographical locations.


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