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Teaching Science to Address Societally Pressing Phenomena and Challenges

The COVID-19 Pandemic and Systemic Racism

The COVID-19 pandemic offers an unprecedented context to explore and engage all students in societally relevant problems. This Professional Learning Unit proposes an instructional framework for STEM education, by foregrounding justice and capitalizing on new advances in STEM disciplines, that can support justice-centered decision-making and solutions to societally pressing phenomena and challenges.

Specifically, the instructional framework leverages data science, computer science, and multidisciplinary convergence of STEM disciplines, which have become key to finding solutions to the pandemic. By harnessing the affordances of new advances in STEM disciplines to surface the systemic racism endemic in our society and structural systems, the instructional framework presents one approach to creating “a new normal” for STEM education that centers on social justice. 

Get Started

The task below asks you to “consider and commit” to your thinking before, during and after watching the web seminar recording. Please note you may take as much time as you need to complete the task.

1. Before Viewing: Focus on Learning

Take two or three minutes to reflect on the use of societally relevant problems and justice-centered decision-making in your classroom.

2. While Viewing: Build and Revise Ideas

Okhee Lee and Todd Campbell propose an instructional framework to leverage societally relevant phenomena and problems to help students make informed decisions and take responsible actions. The three areas of the framework presented in the web seminar are:
Area 1. Using data science and computer science, students make sense of complex real-world phenomena and problems. 
Area 2. Through the convergence of multiple STEM subjects, students make informed decisions and take responsible actions. 
Area 3. STEM education should promote social justice for all students.

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3. After Viewing: Implement and Reflect on Learning

Reflect on what you learned from viewing this web seminar and make a plan for using some of that to support student learning.

Option 1: Todd Campbell and Okhee Lee have developed two Daily Dos (previewed during the web seminar from 1:05:40 to 1:11:24). There are links for each of them on the resource collection ( Adapt one of the Daily Dos for use in your classroom.

Option 2: Develop your own lesson plan that uses the instructional framework shared in the web seminar to frame the experiences for students to achieve your learning objectives. Upload your lesson plan and highlight how you addressed the three areas of the instructional framework.

As you implement, make note of how the use of societally relevant phenomena:

  • engaged your students;
  • facilitated construction of their own explanations;
  • helped them make informed decisions and take responsible actions; 
  • promoted social justice for all students.

Submit Completed Task

Upon completion and submission of the task associated with this self-guided professional learning unit, you will receive a certificate awarding two credit hours of professional learning (also known as continuing education credits).

Please allow up to 30 days for your certificate to be awarded. You will receive an email from NSTA as soon as your certificate is available for download.



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