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Multicultural Equity at NSTA16

By Lynn Petrinjak

Posted on 2016-04-02

Earlier today I attended the Equity Through STEM session presented by Jerry Valadez and Retiring NSTA President Juliana Texley. The discussion was intriguing—not only did they share the history of multicultural initiatives within NSTA, they talked about the disparity in the availability of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses to students.

I was surprised to learn there are schools that do not allow students to participate in science classes until they meet benchmarks in other areas. As Texley pointed out, if you pull students out of science class to provide remedial instruction in other subjects, you are effectively telling them that science is not for them. How do you get children interested in science when they’ve never had a chance to explore? If you don’t get them interested in early in their education, the chances of inspiring these students to pursue careers in the STEM fields aren’t great.

A great discussion followed with attendees sharing their experiences—as former students and as current teachers—and talking about the need for mentors with whom students can identify and support from colleagues and administrators alike when trying to improve/increase science education opportunities in struggling schools. Looking around that room and thinking of all the different people—spanning ethnicities, genders, countries of origin, and income level— I’ve met at NSTA conferences over the years, I think it’s clear a lot of progress has been made from the old stereotype of science as a field only for white men. However, it’s just as clear a lot more needs to be done to ensure future generations know science is for anyone and everyone.

The Multicultural Equity Share-a-thon will be held tomorrow (Saturday) at 2 p.m. I’m eager to see what sort of targeted resources and strategies will be featured.

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