Climate Change: An Opportunity for STEM Education

Dr. Mubina Schroeder is an Associate Professor at Molloy College and is a Kappa Delta Pi United Nations Professional Representative.

In preparation for the upcoming Climate Change Summit at the United Nations, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated:

“We need rapid and deep change in how we do business, generate power, build cities and feed the world.” 

Climate change and its far-reaching effects on the lives of everyone in the global community represent a unique challenge for society—and a unique opportunity for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. STEM educators often contend with ways to promote scientific literacy.

How can we create the next generation of critical thinkers, creative problem solvers, and solution engineers?

One pathway is to promote awareness of socioscientific issues (SSI). Zeidler and Nicols (2009) describe SSI:

“Socioscientific issues involve the deliberate use of scientific topics that require students to engage in dialogue, discussion and debate. They are usually controversial in nature but have the added element of requiring a degree of moral reasoning or the evaluation of ethical concerns in the process of arriving at decisions regarding possible resolution of those issues. The intent is that such issues are personally meaningful and engaging to students, require the use of evidence-based reasoning, and provide a context for understanding scientific information.”

Climate change is an issue that affects every corner of the world, and students in every classroom may be witness to some of its effects. 

Several regions in the world have experienced unprecedented heat waves, water shortages, and extreme weather events–all because of climate change. The beauty of teaching using an SSI approach is that socioscientific issues often are complicated and multifaceted–allowing STEM pedagogues to be creative in teaching about them.

Some great resources on teaching about climate change can be found here:

References

Zeidler, D. L., & Nichols, B. H. (2009). Socioscientific issues: Theory and practice. Journal of Elementary Science Education, 21(2), 49.

How to Incorporate Environmental Science in Your Classroom

Rodriguez-Kaitlyn_blogHi there – it’s Kaitlyn Rodriguez again.

Sustainability and conservation are both key in helping the Earth.

Lately, more than ever, it seems that companies and organizations are moving toward more “green” practices.

Solar panels and alternative energy sources are becoming more prevalent. Recycling initiatives are seen everywhere.

Schools must now start incorporating these practices into the classroom and teaching students how to protect and help the Earth—but how?

With new curriculum standards and practices being mandated, many teachers feel overwhelmed and without enough time for “extra” activities.

What some people don’t know, however, is how simple it can be to incorporate green practices into their daily curriculum and schools. Below are suggestions of what teachers can do to learn more about being eco-friendly, teaching their students about the environment, and helping their school and community.

  1. Host environmental cleanup days. Whether scheduled weekly or monthly, having cleanups at the park, beach, or even school can be simple, fun, and family-friendly activities for all to participate.
  2. Increase the emphasis of environmental concerns in the curriculum. Environmental issues can be incorporated into any grade level and subject. Besides the obvious science lessons, English lessons can involve students writing research reports on endangered species or writing persuasive letters to local officials, urging them to increase their environmental awareness. Social Studies lessons can involve looking at the timelines and history of conservation efforts and sustainable practices, while examining local and national politics regarding the environment.
    • Some organizations offer teacher resources to teach environmental awareness in the classroom. In New York State, for example, the Department of Environmental Conservation hosts a series of educator workshops that provide all attendees with a book of resources, lessons, and curriculum suggestions (dec.ny.gov/education/2035.html).
  3. Go on a field trip! Kids love getting out of the classroom. By going to nature centers or places that deal with the conservation of a particular species, you are helping to make the world more sustainable. Show your students that some people work on these initiatives all their lives, which could be something they may want to do when they get older. If traveling to the site would pose an issue, work with your building administrators on bringing the organizations to your school. A simple Google search provides myriad results for field trip ideas in each state (e.g., Kansas: www.ifamilykc.com/blog/education-learning/field-trip-ideas).
  4. Take the classroom outside. Teach a lesson outdoors to give your students the chance to get some fresh air. Let them put what they’re learning to use in their local community. Go for a nature walk and teach your class about observations and predictions. Test a science experiment outside. Bring your class to an open field and let the nature around them provide inspiration for poetry or any form of writing.
  5. Make a STEAM project assignment that involves recycled or upcycled materials. Assign your class a project over a break that involves using recycled/recyclable materials to create something new, such as a robot. Keeping a project open-ended allows students to display their creativity and interests. Here are some suggestions of activities: https://leftbraincraftbrain.com/stem-goes-green-17-upcycled-and-earth-friendly-projects-for-kids
  6. Provide students, faculty, and staff with environmental, conservation, and sustainability resources from local organizations. Providing literature on what one can do and how one can help—and what can result from one person’s efforts—can offer the motivation to get involved and become interested in these topics. Increasing the availability of such resources in each classroom also is important. Scholastic has nonfiction articles for the younger grades, and National Geographic also makes magazines and articles that students can read. Look for ways to add more nonfiction pieces to your classroom library. Here are some books you may be interested in buying for your classroom: www.amightygirl.com/mighty-girl-picks/top-children-s-books-on-the-environment
  7. Start a Go Green initiative in your classroom and school. Set up recycling bins around the school. Have your students use both sides of their paper. If copies are made incorrectly, or you have extra paper, keep a scrap paper bin for students to use for projects, drafting ideas, and more. If you can afford it, or fundraise for it, buy your students metal water bottles to bring to class instead of plastic bottles. Model for the students what it means to Go Green and they will follow in your footsteps!

These are only seven ways to make your classroom and school a greener one.

If every classroom were to do at least one of these suggestions, just imagine the impact all those students could make on the world.

Tell us how you plan on incorporating sustainable practices in your classroom this year on the Educator Learning Network!

Sources

Black & Brown Face: How Representation Combats Eurocentrism in the Classroom

James Baldwin (1960), an American novelist, playwright, and activist, once said that children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.

It’s easy to see how this can relate to blatant racism, but how are we as educators contributing to our students of color feeling locked out of the environment we have created?

Our students are absorbing more from what they see and feel than what they are being taught; thus, the materials we choose to use and the scholars of the discourse we share can have a profound impact on our students.

I recall reading all these amazing stories for our required reading textbooks about young White men who go on adventures in the woods, often with their dogs, or I would learn about these brilliant mathematicians and scientists who changed the world with their theories and inventions.

None of them looked like me.

The people that students of color would learn about came from recycled lectures about ancient Chinese dynasties during Lunar New Year, Latinx warriors during colonialism, or oppressed Black Americans during Jim Crow.

Consuming that type of media can be traumatizing for students of color because we see ourselves in those limited stereotypical references.

To Baldwin’s point about imitation, how could children of color imitate their elders if they did not see themselves doing miraculous things in science, music, math, and art?

Before 2008, children of color, especially Black children, were told that they could become anyone they wanted to, even the president of the United States. It was just something parents of color said but never really believed until Barack Obama was elected.

The importance of representation is buttressed in view of the record number of people of color and women candidates running for the 2020 presidency. As educators, we can offer our students a diverse set of heroes by selecting materials that are more inclusive and less Eurocentric.

Having an Inclusive Environment

The saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” is incomplete in my view and should be adjusted to, “It takes a diverse village to raise a child.” As part of this diverse village, keep in mind that every figure you choose to share with your students will become part of their village as well; therefore, choosing solely Eurocentric figures will suggest a White supremacist approach to your teaching that would taint the safe environment you worked so hard to establish. Once you get to know your students and establish an environment that is safe and productive, you can maintain this environment by making MUSIC in classroom.

Make them the experts. As you make room for discourse in your classroom, give your students the room to speak about the topic as it relates to their background or cultural upbringing.

Use your resources. We teach groups with anywhere from 18 to 30+ people, and each one of them have unique experiences, so it might be wise to pull from who you have in your class. Scholars come from every part of this world; bringing that culture into your classroom will make that student feel seen and heard.

Support your students’ unique perspectives. Every student is an important addition to the cohort, and their feelings should be validated. Your students may be speaking from cultural perspectives that might be foreign to you, and it is important not to mischaracterize their zeal.

Involve yourself as the learner. In a student-centered classroom, discovery should be at the forefront of your lessons. Allow space for posing questions to which you do not know the answers and collaborate ideas for solutions with your students.

Combat the overuse of Eurocentrism. Your students are listening and watching very closely to the things you say and choose to share. Even when teaching a predominantly White group of students, we have the capacity as educators to use resources that are not part of the Western canon. Reflect upon the hidden curriculum you might be imposing upon your students.

As we continue to create environments that are inclusive of other cultures, we will simultaneously deconstruct the limitations of the colonial mindset and rewrite more complete narratives.

Resource

Video: “Changing the Stories We Have Inherited From Colonialism,” with Priyamvada Gopal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOnBiHHPLm4&t=13s

Collin Edouard is currently a Gates Cambridge Scholar working on a Master’s of Music in Choral Studies. He earned a BFA in Vocal Performance at The City College of New York, and an MA in Music Education at Teachers College of Columbia University.

Reference

Baldwin, J. A. (1960, July). Fifth Avenue, uptown: A letter from Harlem. Esquire.

Thinking Critically About Our Current Education System

Hi, my name is Kevin Cataldo, and I’m a recent graduate of Felician University in New Jersey. I was the chapter president of the Alpha Zeta Rho Chapter of KDP on campus. I’m also a representative of KDP to the United Nations, as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), and I am at currently a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University.

On July 15, 2019, Teachers College welcomed K–12 educators and all other stakeholders from across the country and around the world to its 4th Annual Reimagining Education Summer Institute (RESI).

During the Institute, participants got the opportunity to critically think about our current education system.

In fact, during Day 1, the participants were asked to keep the following questions in mind: Why must we “reimagine” education here in the United States? The remaining 3 days focused heavily on the following: (a) racial and cultural literacy, (b) equity pedagogy, and (c) culturally sustaining leadership.

Here I am with Dr. Ladson Billings!

This year’s keynote address was delivered in an eloquent, powerful, and thought-provoking manner by Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, a KDP Laureate.

She is considered a pioneer of culturally relevant teaching, a pivotal area of study in education that I hope to learn more about as I continue my graduate studies at Teachers College.

The Institute was extra special for me this year, as this was my first time participating in it. I also was a dialogue session co-facilitator.

During the 4 days, my co-facilitators and I provided K–12 educators and other stakeholders with a brave space to share their thoughts, feelings, concerns, and knowledge about our education system. As a soon-to-be first-year third-grade language arts and social studies teacher in Newark, New Jersey, the Institute provided me with hope that I have the power to “reimagine” our education system and truly make a difference in the lives of my students.

At the conclusion of the Institute, both educators and stakeholders were asked to return to their respective school communities with a crucial question in mind: “What Now?”

In other words, what will I do to bring equity pedagogy into my school community?

Today more than ever before, the United States and the world must join forces and “reimagine” education, especially since one’s society depends heavily on an educated citizenry.

Furthermore, as a member of Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education, and as one of its UN Youth Representatives for the upcoming 2019–2020 academic school year, my goal is to raise awareness about this unique Institute at the world stage—at the United Nations Headquarters.

To end, raising such awareness can be beneficial not only to educators, but to other stakeholders within the United Nations as well.

Why? Think about it: The goal of the Institute is to help educators realize how vital it is for schools and stakeholders to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” (SDG 4: Quality Education).

KDP & The United Nations

Rodriguez-Kaitlyn_blogHi, my name is Kaitlyn Rodriguez, and I’m a recent graduate of St. Joseph’s College in New York. I was the founding chapter president, now alumna, of the Alpha Theta Omega Chapter. I’m also a representative of KDP to the United Nations, as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO).

Learn all about how Kappa Delta Pi is connected to the United Nations and how you can get involved!

WHAT ARE THE UN GOALS?

In 2015, the United Nations adopted The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This initiative is a way for nations across the globe work to together to better the world in which we live. The 17 SDGs, or Sustainable Development Goals, are the 17 categories of improvements that the UN came up with. These goals are:

  1. No Poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health and Well-Being
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equality
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  10. Reduced Inequalities
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life Below Water
  15. Life on Land
  16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  17. Partnerships for the Goals

WHAT DOES KDP HAVE TO DO WITH THESE GOALS?

The hope is that by the year 2030, each of these goals will be achieved, or at least progress will have been made toward each goal. So far, much work has been done on these goals by various groups and organizations, including Kappa Delta Pi. KDP is considered a non-governmental organization, of which there are 200+ involved with the UN and these SDGs.

Kappa Delta Pi has a group of dedicated members working specifically on these goals. Known as the Youth Representative of KDP, I personally have done my best to incorporate what I learned about these goals into my chapter as well as the community around me. The other members of this group are working on their campuses, in their schools, or in their fields to make an impact on those around us. Collectively, we’ve held events in support of the SDGs, including speaking with chapters and attending and presenting at conferences such as CTAUN and the 2019 American Educational Research Association Conference (Toronto, Canada), and incorporated the goals into units of study for schools. At this year’s Convocation, there also will be a presentation by members of this group, so be sure to check them out!

HOW CAN I HELP?

As Hellen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” With your help as a dedicated member of KDP—a member who took a vow to work toward bettering the future of your students and community and toward providing quality education for all—you can make a difference. If everyone made one small change in their lifestyle, classroom, or community, the world would be positively affected. It’s up to you to help make the world a better place. Find what you’re passionate about and work toward that goal. Incorporate the goals into your unit plans, show your students videos on the effects of living a sustainable life, and show tolerance, peace, and justice inside and outside your classroom. Expose your students to current literature and read them books about pollution, energy, and things happening in the world around them.

As an educator, you share responsibility for your students’ futures. You are the reason they know how to write. You taught them how to add and subtract. You explained how to write argumentative essays and persuasive essays in which they argue for a change that mattered to them. Show students how to do some good with these skills. Teach them real-life applications. Many times, especially as students get older, they lose touch with their purpose and don’t see the point in going to school or doing good in their community. By showing them that they can make a tangible impact in their environment, and better their lives and the ones to come, they will find their purpose, and maybe even a passion they didn’t know they had.

RESOURCES

If you want to find out more about these goals, and see what changes have been made thus far, check out this link: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300

For information regarding the 2030 Agenda, follow this link: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld.

Food Systems Education: Linking Big Ideas Across The School Community

HopeStartsHere

Farm to School (FTS) programs are cropping up around the country, connecting students to sustainability efforts in their own school communities.

The 3Cs framework of FTS puts the learner at the center of the school food system, connecting the Cafeteria, Classroom, and Community through education and action. FTS helps students access nutritious and fresh foods, provides meaningful and relevant curriculum, and connects student learning to the real world of farming and food systems. Most importantly, it highlights each student’s role within the food system, as a participant and potential agent of sustainable change.

Food systems education is where educators play a vital role in this whole-school–whole-community approach. You can bring math, literacy, social studies, and science alive when you connect students to the elegant simplicity and complexity of local to global food systems.

The Big Ideas of Sustainability (bit.ly/ SFBigIdeas) can inspire cross-disciplinary connections and school-wide engagement, as well as deepen community partnerships, campus practices, and culture. Try these suggestions.

Start with big ideas, themes and standards

The Big Idea of Change links with thematic strands (www.socialstudies.org/standards/strands) in the National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies such as People, Places, and Environments; Culture; and Time, Continuity, and Change. These standards help us develop learning outcomes—knowledge and skills we want students to gain.

Add inquiry

Learners are naturally curious. Give them a question that they can engage with and develop an understanding of over time. An essential question such as, “In what ways does the land shape culture?” invites deep crosscurricular exploration and learning.

Next, layer on food systems and your local place

By integrating food production and engaging with local farmers, historians, and the students’ families, they begin to see the connections to their place and lives. You can create learning activities to explore why people settled near rivers in your community, how human migration patterns have changed over time, and how shifting demographics have shaped the food and culture of your city.

Wrap up with an assessment:

You may have purposefully linked big ideas, standards, the local place, and food systems, but did your students get it? Create an assessment that helps you see what your students understand. For example, a class could create a museum display for their community illustrating how human migration has impacted the natural and agricultural systems in their city.

Suggested Activities

  • Write haikus about your fresh fruit and vegetable snacks.
  • Plant seeds for a school garden exploring plant life cycles.
  • Learn about food access and healthy foods in your community.
  • Start a school-run farmers’ market.
  • Run a semester-long inquiry into food justice.

No matter where you begin, a wealth of resources is available to get you started.

Resources

Image result for jen cirillo shelburne farmsMs. Cirillo is the Director of Professional Learning at Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vermont. She supports educators and schools to use the lens of sustainability for curriculum, campus practices and culture, and community partnerships.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Dr. Yvonne Skipper

Today’s blogger is Yvonne Skipper, who co-authored with Eloise de Carvalho to write “’I Have Seen the Opportunities That Science Brings’: Encouraging Girls to Persist in Science,” which appears in the latest issue of The Educational Forum.

This time-honored question, which children across the globe are asked with regularity, can lead to surprising responses.

Beyond the whimsical “princess” and “unicorn” to the heart-warming “happy,” children often have strong ideas even before they reach school.

However, as children get older and learn more about the world, these ideas can change.

For example, we cannot all become a real princess like Megan Markle! Sometimes these views change, not because of how children see the world, but because of how the world sees them. Society may openly or subtly suggest that certain jobs are for men and others for women.

This view can impact the subjects and careers children choose, as illustrated in this brief video.

There is currently a huge demand for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) graduates in the workforce. Those with a STEM background are valued not just in the science-based jobs, but also in other roles where the ability to think critically, analyze data, and evaluate evidence is prized.

However, often children are not interested in STEM subjects, seeing them as “too hard” or “boring,” and they are even less interested in scientific careers. When you look at those who do continue in science, typically you find more boys in STEM subjects, such as math and physics, and in pursuit of careers such as engineering. This difference is not seen because girls lack talent in these subjects. In fact, girls often perform better than boys, receiving higher proportions of the top grades. So why are these talented girls less likely to continue in STEM than boys?

It has been suggested that we choose our subjects and our careers based on whether we think we can succeed and our values.

Boys are more likely than girls to believe they can succeed in STEM, even though they are overall less likely to get the highest grades. Their belief might come from seeing so many famous male scientists, both in academia and in fiction. This can lead boys and girls to believe that men are more likely to succeed and also more likely to “belong” in science. Even the television show Big Bang Theory focuses more on male scientists; female scientists Amy and Bernadette do not appear until later seasons and are working in the more “female” fields of medicine and neurobiology. It is important that the media fully represent female scientists in their factual and fiction programming.

We also choose subjects and careers that we think we will enjoy and that we see as useful in our lives or in our communities.

Many girls choose careers where they can help others, such as teaching, midwifery, and social work. Girls often do not perceive STEM careers as “helpful.” This is interesting because, for example, designing a new wheelchair to manage rough terrain, creating inclusive educational technologies, and researching cures for diseases could have a positive impact and help people worldwide. Yet often girls do not make the connection between STEM subjects and the impact of associated careers, and may prefer a more interpersonal approach to helping.

Promoting how “helpful” science can be could potentially lead girls to develop an understanding about how science improves society.

In our Forum article, Eloise and I are not saying that girls should be pushed into science careers, but instead that women should not leave a subject or career path for the “wrong” reason, such as believing that they are less likely to succeed than others or that they will not belong. Instead it is important that we feel able to choose our subjects and career paths in line with our interests and goals for ourselves and our communities.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through June 30, 2019.