STEM Leaders Agree on Relevancy of Environmental Education for Kids of Color
from Wildlife PromiseWe have a long way to go when it comes to diverse representation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education, as I have said in a previous post. But last week I learned that some of the biggest advocates for increasing STEM’s reach to African American students are taking action.
On May 3, 2012, the National Association of Black School Educators (NABSE) hosted the National Education Policy Institute’s event “Saving the Soul of Public Education,” which featured a session on STEM. Panelists included astronaut Leland Melvin, who is the Associate Administrator of education at NASA, Yohance Maquelba, the Executive Director of Howard University Middle School for Science and Math, Ted Brodheim, COO of ePals, and Horace Williams, Superintendent of Cedar Hill Independent School District.
From placing high-speed internet in the hands of every student to connecting classrooms with role models from NASA, Microsoft and other big names in STEM, each panelist gave specific, compelling examples of real-life efforts to get children of color from all over the country thinking about the possibilities STEM offers. Though the title of the session, “The New Three R’s,” was in reference to Science, Technology and Engineering, there was one big “R” that steered the conversation: relevancy.
Afterward, panelists took questions from the audience, and when I asked about the ability of environmental learning to demonstrate the relevancy of STEM, all agreed that it has an important role. Melvin described NASA’s initiative to connect employees to schools as STEM ambassadors, and that they are introducing classrooms to the new Earth Now app, which monitors changing climate data via satellite. This fits well with NWF’s Eco-Schools USA NASA-funded high school curriculum on climate change as well as providing students with hands-on, experiential learning opportunities that helps connect them to both STEM disciplines and the environment.
Superintendent Williams described several green initiatives that are going on in his district that are engaging students and teachers and connecting them to the community. He stated that Cedar Hill students have community gardens on school grounds, where they are partnering with a local community college and a local 4-year university. A nutritionist from the First Lady’s Let’s Move Nutrition program is in the district teaching students the health benefits of eating from the gardens. Even a nearby tilapia farm contributes as a source of natural fertilizer for the gardens.
NABSE’s leadership is well aware of the benefits of environmental education. Before the session even got underway, I had the pleasure of speaking with NABSE’s President-elect Bernard Hamilton, who spoke enthusiastically about school environmental projects in his hometown of Louisville, KY. It’s clear that diversity in STEM is something we need now when it comes to education – for our kids, for our environment, and for our economy.
Want to learn more about bringing STEM and environmental learning into the classroom? Click here to read about Eco-Schools USA’s Climate Change Connections program and the educational resources provided by NASA.