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Group 17 – Teaching Science for Social Justice (11/16)

Teaching Science for Social Justice: Chapter 8 – Empowering Science Education and Youth’s Practices of Science

 

Summary:

This chapter was mainly a summary of all the overarching ideas presented throughout the book, linking together different concepts that were presented in isolation into a bigger picture (Figure 8.1) and evaluating their roles. The chapter then explores possible future directions that we as educators can explore. In designing future curriculum, we need to keep in mind topics that allow students to see science: 1) “through multiple points of entry”, 2) “through structures that recognize networks” and 3) “through thinking about identities and relationships through a desire for change”. The book ends with a reminder, or author’s thoughts, on why we should pursue science education as a career.

 

Connection to class:

  • This chapter came in a timely manner in tandem with our Case Study assignment where we were forced to think about our roles in classrooms in the future. Members of the group were able to apply our PLC readings to this assignment in our analysis of the case study assignment.

 

Highlights of Group Discussion:

  • We talked a little bit about the Paris attacks and how Facebook let people “check in” that they were safe. We talked about how people had a problem with this, in that they are asking, “Why does FB only care about people in Paris, and not anywhere else in the world that are getting terrorized?
  • We decided this was unfair, but it also made us feel like no matter what is done that is good, someone will always find a way to show you how wrong your good is.
  • We also talked about how we are sad this is our second to last PLC! This semester has flown by. Three of the four of us are student teaching next semester, and although we are excited, we realized we only have 9 days of classes left of our undergraduate career which is CRAZY!

 

Questions to Pose (for the teacher’s panel next week):

  1. Has a student ever exhibited an insensitive response (e.g. laughing, ridiculing, mocking) to a social justice topic you were trying to teach your class? How did you respond to this situation?
  2. How much energy should/can we devote to incorporating social justice topics into our science curricula? How can we go about this in a tactful way?
  3. Has it been hard to balance making sure you are not offending someone in whatever you do? Like we were talking about from our first two discussion highlights, it seems that no matter what we do that is “good,” someone somewhere will find it offensive.

 

Mission Statement:

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

 

Next Week’s Reading:

Since we’ve completed the book, we’ll be revisiting the book in its entirety and discussing the overarching ideas, how they relate to what we’ve learned in the course this semester, and how we can apply them to our future careers.

 

Darkside and The Community Garden

“Good science would happen only if everyone were involved, because science was about finding answers to everyone’s questions and needs.” stated by Darkside, as he and his peers focused their efforts on the science activity of transforming an abandoned lot into a community garden in the shelter. Darkside was an extremely self-motivated 16-year-old Cuban American student. Although, Darkside’s had a broken leg, he was actively involved in his shelter’s garden project in more inventive ways, organizing and encouraging his partners. The community garden project was designed based on the student’s specified interest, aligning with the ideas of Hinchey (2006) – teaching based on students’ interest, background and experience.

This anecdote reminds me that teachers need to value students various qualities and features rather than ignoring students’ talents just because they cannot can quantitatively graded in exams. Many students who do not thrive academically do not receive substantial amounts of attention by teachers which can be harmful for students’ academic development and development of confidence. Specifically when examining students from high-poverty communities, poor test scores become more common due to limited resources and poor studying atmospheres. That being said, many of these students can offer something creative and different to your class, which should be valued by teachers. In other words, teachers should teach different students according to their diverse contexts. They should try to find the shining spot of each student, which would be beneficial for both students and schools. For students, they can accept equitable chance to be educated; for schools, some unique characters would help schools establish diversity cultural environment.

All in all, teachers should value the different characters of the students who are from high-poverty communities because the students’ different experiences will offer the class different and unique qualities. In addition, teachers should continue to develop their creative thoughts and conduct different, out-of-the-box ways to teach their students.

Teaching Science for Social Justice: Chapter 7 – Building Communities in Support of Youths

Group 17 – Teaching Science for Social Justice (11/9)

Summary: In this chapter, we are introduced to the REAL (Restoring Environments and Landscapes) science community at Southside Shelter in New York City. In particular, the author explores the importance of collaboration in the scientific endeavors (and eventually accomplishments) of the science community in this urban setting. Individuals at the shelter not only draw from each other’s individual strengths, but also engage in dialogue (e.g. “courtyard chats”) to identify the needs and wants of the larger community. The author proposes that this inquiry-based approach to doing science has potential even in more traditional classroom settings.

Connection to class:

  • Nieto (2009) talks about the importance of modifying instruction to be culturally sensitive which is reminiscent of the concept of “Inclusivity” discussed in this chapter. The need for “responsiveness and respect” also ties in with Nieto’s argument that cultural sensitivity should be emphasized in the classroom.
  • Everyone comes to the classroom with different experiences and knowledge, based upon the circumstances they are born into (Hochschild, 2003), which was a concept the chapter revisited when contextualizing a Science classroom in a lower income area.

Highlights of Group Discussion:

  • We talked about why one of our group members, René Kronlage, decided to join Teach For America. She knew she had to be a teacher after watching the movie Precious and was inspired by the teacher. From there she looked more into the program.
    • A main argument against TFA is that it perpetuates the problem of there being a “revolving door of teachers,” and research has found that most lower-income, struggling schools have this revolving door of teachers. René brought up a good point, in that correlation does not equal causation, and asked us to think about the underlying issues that could be leading to this (i.e. lack of resources, not as much support from faculty, etc.). Why would a teacher want to continue teaching in a lower-income school if he or she isn’t supported and there is such a severe lack of resources, when they could transfer to another, better-funded school where their jobs would not be as stressful?
  • Bryan Wang is currently deciding whether he wants to student teach next semester in an Honors Biology classroom, or in a classroom where his students are dropout students. From observing classrooms and his knowledge of both schools, the Honors Biology classroom would probably be much easier and less stressful, however he would have a lot of support teaching the high school dropouts Biology, so it would be much more rewarding. He also feels that if he could get through teaching next semester with these students, that he would learn a lot more about the “real world” in how hard teaching is and it would be much more rewarding. We will keep you updated on what he decides!

Questions to Pose:

  1. What does it mean to participate in a science community?
  2. How do decisions around who can participate and what participation entails influence the purposes, goals, and outcome of that community?

Who should be able to participate in a science community and how should participation be measured?

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 8 – Empowering Science Education and Youth’s Practices of Science: 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.

Group 17 – Teaching Science for Social Justice (11/2)

Teaching Science for Social Justice: Chapter 6 – Transformations: Science as a Tool for Change

Summary: In this chapter, we are introduced to a young Black Cuban American man named Darkside who lives at an inner city New York homeless shelter. Darkside is in the 10th grade and has dreams of graduating and making a life for himself, but he encounters many obstacles along the way. Among them are the dangers of gang violence and, of course, the hardships of living at the homeless shelter, without a place to call his own. Nonetheless, we see Darkside making great strides towards his goals by engaging with a community science effort to beautify the surrounding area with a garden. Through his enthusiasm and leadership, he is also helping to transform his community.

Connection to class:

  • Barry (2005) talks about how people who are advantaged (socioeconomically, by race, by association) have more opportunities to have access to a quality education and educational experiences. Similarly, he discusses how some students are disadvantaged by these very reasons and how they have to overcome much more challenges to get where the more advantaged students are. This creates a cycle were those who are at the top of the socioeconomic chain remain there, while those at the bottom remain there, too.
    • Some factors that affect whether students end up ahead that Barry (2005) mentions include:
      • Lack of parental care
      • Lack of regulation in childcare
      • Childcare
      • Income level
      • Encouragement
      • Cultural resources
      • Prenatal care
      • Child abuse
      • Maternity/Paternity leave
      • Number of words child is exposed to a year
      • Disability resources
      • Access to technology
      • Technology use ability
      • Private Vs. Public schools
      • Flexibility of time off
      • Political viability
      • Gerrymandering
  • Bettez also argues that “Racism is a problem for us all.” In this sense, racism is negatively affecting Darkside.

Highlights of Group Discussion:

  • Relating Darkside’s experience to personal experiences in schools as well as in-class observations as part of our pedagogical classes, although at a less extreme degree.
  • Linking ideas shared in class presentations today to the PLC reading and discussing lesson ideas that could have been helpful in utilizing science as a tool for positive change in these classrooms.
  • We talked about how science can empower students to want to go out and do things like make a community garden.

Questions to Pose:

  1. How can we guide students to use the knowledge they have to help them succeed in the classroom?
  2. How can we involve students in community projects like creating a community garden?
  3. How can science be used as a “tool for change” in that science can make students feel empowered to go above and beyond?

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 7 – Building Communities In Support of Youths’ Science Practices: 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.

Bringing Essential Standards to the Shelters

We have been reading the book Teaching Science for Social Justice, which discusses how afterschool programs at two different shelters have brought science to children living in these shelters. Last week we compared and contrasted science standards from two sources: NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) and the NC Essential Standards from the Department of Public Education. By considering the two standards in the context of the afterschool program at the shelters, we discussed the differences in the meaning of science and goals of science education between the shelter’s program and a traditional NC school classroom. We discussed how the shelters’ science programs have enriched and empowered the youths living in the homeless shelters by framing science in unique ways that resonate with the student participants. However, the stories in the book commented that the youths in the shelters do not feel that the science they are exposed to is the same as the science curriculum in the traditional classroom. We discussed how important it was for the children to experience classroom science at the shelter. This raised several questions: Is it really important that the student’s experience is the same as traditional schools? Or is learning science that relates to ones own experience more valuable? And, importantly, would learning science as taught in classroom make some of the children feel more inclusive?

Knowing that classroom science is based on essential standards in the state of NC, we wondered if the shelters could provide more opportunities for science that encompassed state standards. We found many online resources that provide science activities that align with state standards. Keeping in mind that shelters have limited resources, both monetary and supplies, we found activities that used everyday household items and could be performed outside a school classroom. We discussed how the shelters could feasibly bring these activities to the shelter, but we questioned why the teachers at the shelter had not brought these types of activities to the shelter already, since these activities are easily found online.

From our book reading, we do not underestimate the growth and cognitive development the children at the shelters have undergone through the science programs. We have read how they have experienced science in unique ways that goes beyond the attainment of scientific knowledge. And we are not suggesting that science in the classroom aligned with state standards is the right or only way. But we question whether the children who feel that the science at the shelter is not real science might benefit if they were exposed to activities that were more aligned with state standards. Some online activities directly state how they align the activity with a state standard. We are suggesting that some of these activities might even be similar to classroom activities, therefore, making the children feel like they were doing the same science and feel more inclusive with other students at school. We are interested to know if this has been done at the shelter. Is it really about resources or just a different type of science practice?

The Power of Language in Science Curriculum

The NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) is a program currently implemented in twenty six states across our nation. Next year, the state of North Carolina is going to be voting on the implementation of this science curriculum into our public school system. Because of this, our group thought it might be interesting to compare the current NC State Standards with the Next Generation Science Standards; specifically, the language used in the objectives and prompts. Right off the bat, it is easy to see very blatant differences in the wording of the two curriculums. The verbs used in the current NC curriculum outline lends itself to very passive instruction. Reading down a bulleted list of instructions you will see:

  • explain …
  • explain ….
  • explain …
  • summarize …
  • explain …
  • identify …

When you compare this to the the NGSS, you will see a much different pattern:

  • analyze …
  • develop a model …
  • plan …
  • conduct an inverstation …
  • construct an argument …

These verbs provide aid to help a teacher learn to engage her students. There is no doubt in my mind that the students of a teacher following the Next Generation curriculum will be much more invested and intrigued by science and the learning process when compared to a student being taught by the current North Carolina guidelines.

Because the curriculum is just a list of objectives and topics for teachers to cover, teachers can relay this information to their students in any way they desire. It is easier for teachers to just pass out worksheets and lecture in order to reach the standards that they need to reach rather than going out side and doing a larger project and getting students engaged. The NGSS standards are what I would expect a teacher like the one in our book to be using. These teachers created a large class project engaging the community- which is much more interactive and inquiry based than a standard classroom would be. To promote innovation in our classrooms, it is time for our state to adjust their standards.

Questions of Power and Identity in Science Education 10/12

Teaching Science for Social Justice: Chapter 4 Power and Co-opting Science Spaces

Summary:

Junior & Iris

  • Struggle between negotiating power in science and their lives: Junior and Iris both associate doing poorly in school with behavior/”being bad,” and they liked or disliked their teachers based on the respect they demonstrated toward her.
    • If they felt disrespected, the were likely to challenge authority, thus “being bad.” Their thought process was that the “bad” kids did bad in school, whereas the “good” children did well in school.

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  • Junior wants to hammer things for a living, for this is what he sees many of the adults in his life doing for a living.
  • Iris was extremely attached to her cultural identity as a Mexican and very loyal to her family–her siblings in particular. She took on much of the responsibility of a mother, and seemed very confused about her role as a sister (child) or mother (adult). Although Iris was smart, she was quick to give up if she didn’t do well at something right away–she was always “questioning the validity of her own choices.”

Co-Opting:

  • If given the opportunity, students of varying backgrounds have been observed to “co-opt” their interactions with science, to gain ownership over their learning and make their interaction with science authentically their own. Thus the author purports that as much as possible, students should be presented with chances to co-opt their education.

Connection to class: In Chapter 4, Barton explains how student actions which are often perceived as “resistant” are in fact expressions of identity and means of self-preservation. This connects to the Barry (2005) reading, where we encountered that students’ deviant behavior, often deemed “not socially acceptable” in school environments, is influenced by the vastly different kinds and rates of parental feedback they receive at home (p. 51-2). Rather than automatically punish these students and further restrict them, we should seek to understand their background and work to “connect their interests and talents to the wide range of possibilities offered by our society and economy” (Barton p. 70).

Highlights of Group Discussion: In the educational system, we are often taught that there is a “right” and a “wrong”. Responses to questions can be either correct or incorrect, and behaviors can be either acceptable or unacceptable. However, in this chapter, we have discovered that this kind of attitude towards the classroom experience can be off-putting to some students, and actually cause them to become disinterested in learning. In order to provide a productive experience for all students, we should embrace questions and challenges to what counts as “socially acceptable,” while still emphasizing to our students the importance of understanding the dominant social code.

Questions to Pose:  

  1. Should we/how can we, as educators, intervene in inter-student interactions to make sure no single student is dominating the scene and making others feel left out of an educational activity?
  2. How can we include different cultures or particular interests of students into the classroom?
  3. How can we encourage students to challenge authority and their identity without it being disrespectful to educators or the students feel that they are being “bad”?

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.