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STEM Place Based Learning and Justice Theory
Justice Theory prepares educators to work effectively in diverse school environments (Bell, 1997). Justice Theory enhances equity across race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and the ability to foster a critical perspective and promote action. Justice is embedded in Transformative Leadership (Shields, 2011).
Transformative leaders share a goal of identifying and restricting frameworks that generate inequity. STEM education is empowering to the extent that students learn to identify dominant power and critique the role of power in the production and use of STEM knowledge (Shain, 2015).
By the end of this chapter school administrators and teachers will have tools needed to implement STEM projects that are aligned to Justice Theory. Parents and students will have examples of Justice STEM activities that they can participate in at the school level or incorporate in their community.
This chapter will help you to:
- Develop P-Based STEM activities that align with Justice Theory
- Create STEM activities that build knowledge and skills to answer driving questions that are inclusive and equitable to all students
- Foster critical perspectives and promote action
STEM Place Based Learning and Justice
Administration: Administrators will acquire tools to ensure that P-Based STEM activities will be inclusive and equitable.
Educators: Teachers will find examples of STEM activities that are adaptable to multiple grade levels and learning abilities.
Students: Students will discover examples of STEM activities that are inclusive of their voice.
Parents: Parents can preview and amend activities that are incorporated in their child’s school or adapted to their community.
Why is Equity, Inclusiveness Important?
A focus on equity directly aligns STEM policy in Michigan. Every district, school, community, parent, and student is different and has different needs. For families and communities to feel valued, they must be represented in the planning and implementation of school-level activities.
As school districts across the state of Michigan begin to implement policies and align instruction to them, it is important that administrators and educators engage the students and the community in the adoption and adaptation processes. Ensuring that all students are included in the implementation will not only create a community of learners, but also meet policy goals. Provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), for example, promote the use of federal funding to develop and implement STEM learning in K-12 schools.
Justice occurs when leaders (administration/educators/community stakeholders) ensure that all students are given a fair and equitable opportunity to all the rights and privileges of a high-quality education. Justice leaders ensure that all the rights and freedoms are given to all students without regard to their race, religion, economic background, gender, and sexual orientation (Bell 1997; Stovall 2006).
- How can this P-Based activity foster a critical perspective and promote action?
- How can the P-Based activity encompass and respect the culture of my students?
- Does this P-Based activity include all students?
- How can I ensure no students feel excluded from the intended goal of the P-Based activity?
- How does this P-Based activity impact my community?
- How can my community benefit from the P-Based activity?
Step 1: Planning Team
Develop a team of stakeholders. This team will consist of administrator, educators, teachers, and students, the purpose of this team is to gather information regarding STEM P-Based activities and ensure they reflect the conceptual questions listed above. This team will also plan professional development for staff to ensure they are developing activities that are inclusive of all students and having a positive effect on the community with alignment to district mandated curriculum and NGSS.
Step 2: Demographics
Take a deep dive to discover the cultural wealth (Yosso T.J, 2005) of the community. To adapt P-Based learning to include all students, one must first understand the communities in which they live. Educators and administrators can foster a humanizing, empowering culture that helps students recognize their agency to engage in science-informed environmental justice. Educators should engage in Culturally Relevant Pedagogies (see Culturally Relevant Pedagogies Playbook) that identify and leverage the knowledge and practice resources of students and their communities (Bang et al., 2017)
Step 3: Cultivating Agency
Students feel ownership when they are heard. Ownership optimizes learning. Marginalized students are often foreclosed from critical dialogues and are frequently ignored. Justice theories combat oppression and allows students the tools to effect change (Esposito & Swain, 2009). With guidance, students choose their own pathways and are given choice in class activities. (See YPAR Playbook)
Step 4 –SMART Goals
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound Goal - The coordinating team should develop SMART goals for implantation. As a team you could develop one school wide plan/theme that teachers and students adapt to their individual classes.
An Integrated Approach to Creating STEM Career Pathways
STEM Career Integration
Sample STEM Place Based activities with alignment to Environmental Justice
Helping Students make Sense of the World through Next Generation Science and Engineering Practices
Social Justice in a Science Classroom
Social Justice–Centered Science Teaching and Learning
STEM Career Integration in Math: A Social Justice Issue
STEM integration in a high school classroom.
Water Quality Project
In this 11th grade chemistry project, students in Brooklyn, NY consider issues of environmental racism, with implications for their own community, as they investigate the drinking water crisis that occurred in Flint, Michigan.
All students should have access to quality project-based learning to deepen their learning and achieve success in college, career, and life. This website has resources for districts, schools, and district partnerships.
STEM plays a critical role in global innovations and advancements. It is important to have diverse representations. This resource provides materials to advocate for equitable K-12 STEM education to ensure adequate representation for all groups. Includes STEM Educational Equity Analysis Tool.
Provide innovative solutions to an increasingly challenging and complex society. Ensure that all citizens are engaged in the conversation of STREAM ideas and the implementation of STREAM education to impact the health, wealth, and well-being of communities.
This resource provides examples of STEM education for children ages 5-18 (kindergarten–high school; "school-aged"). This program is inclusive of traditionally underrepresented groups in STEM, such as girls, women, and underrepresented minorities of all types. It aims to develop cross-cultural STEM education projects, experiments, and educational experiences.
Carolyn Shields, October 1, 2015.
Bang, M.,Brown B,.Calabrese Barton, A., Rosebery, A. S., & Warren, B. E. T. H. (2017). Toward more equitable learning in science. Helping students make sense of the world using next generation science and engineering practices, 33-58.
Bell, L. A. (1997). Theoretical foundations for justice education. In M. Adams, L. A. Bell & P. Griffin (Eds.), Teaching for diversity and justice: A sourcebook. New York, NY: Routledge.
Bell, S. (2010). Project-based learning for the 21st century: Skills for the future. The clearing house, 83(2), 39-43.
Calabrese Barton, A., and E. Tan. 2010. We be burnin’! Agency, identity and learning in a green energy program. Journal of the Learning Sciences. 19 (2): 187–229
Calabrese Barton, A., & Tan, E. (2018). A longitudinal study of equity-oriented STEM-rich making among youth from historically marginalized communities. American Educational Research Journal, 55(4), 761-800.
Carlisle, L. R., Jackson, B. W., & George, A. (2006). Principles of justice education: The justice education in schools project. Equity & Excellence in Education, 39(1), 55-64
Cochran-Smith, M. (2004). Walking the road: Race, diversity, and justice in teacher education. Teachers College Press.
David Stovall (2006) Forging community in race and class: critical race theory and the quest for justice in education, Race Ethnicity and Education, 9:3, 243-259
Esmonde, I., & Caswell, B. (2010). Teaching mathematics for justice in multicultural, multilingual elementary classrooms. Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, 10(3), 244-254.
Esposito, J., & Swain, A. N. (2009). Pathways to Justice: Urban Teachers’ Uses of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy as a Conduit for Teaching for Justice. Penn GSE Perspectives on Urban Education, 6(1), 38-48.
Fornof, A. (2018). Mentorships Sparks Students’ STEM Curiosity. STEM for Justice, 14(8) Jessup-Anger, J., Armstrong, M., Kerrick, E., & Siddiqui, N. (2019). Exploring students’ perceptions of their experiences in a justice living–learning community. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 56(2), 194-206.
Krajcik, J. (2015). PROJECTED-BASED SCIENCE. The science teacher, 82(1), 25.
Share your ideas, comments, or feedback on MiSTEM Network Playbooks!