THIS article is being republished to inform teachers regionally and globally.
I was invited to speak to a group of dynamic STEM educators in The Bahamas a part of the Bahamas Association of Science Educators' (BASE) meeting. I was asked to offer strategies to get Bahamian students into STEM. To that end, I offered the following initiatives or strategies to those teachers, and the same offer was made to teachers regionally in the Caribbean and globally in order to get more students of colour and girls into STEM:
Start STEM exposure very early on in your students' learning process — as early as preschool — and continue this early exposure throughout the primary/elementary school years. During this time the intent of you, the teacher, should be:
•To introduce your students to basic STEM concepts
•To pique their curiosity and build an interest and motivation toward STEM disciplines such as science, math, or basic technology. Research is finding that early exposure is key, and it has positive impacts across the learning spectrum of students (National Research Council, 2012).
Create opportunities for learning STEM concepts through fun-filled, play-based activities. In a 2017 Nassau Guardian article, I stated the following: "The traditional 'chalk and talk' teaching method is no longer considered the norm in motivating students to learn…so, things like game-based learning or play-based learning can be used in Bahamian schools [in Caribbean and American schools] at the primary/elementary level to improve achievement."
Teachers must find ways to effectively and creatively integrate play activities into their teaching. Specifically, according to STEM Caribbean News (2020), Jamaican artists are exploring ways to integrate reggae beats into the Jamaican curriculum. Just imagine if Bahamian teachers infused the pulsating sounds of our unique, cultural "rake-n'-scrape beats" or African-centred "Junkanoo music" within the science curriculum content. Or, if American teachers continuously infused a bit of "hip hop and rap music" into their math and science classrooms. Just imagine... imagine the extreme excitement that would make for your young students.
Expose your students intentionally to:
•Professionals of excellence, especially black professionals of excellence in STEM. For example, black girls can be exposed to successful black female medical doctors or research scientists who can be locally based within your immediate region and can give classroom talks to students;
•Teachers can also facilitate video presentations on international women who are excelling in STEM such as Dr Kizzmekia Corbett, a Harvard University professor and scientist, and the developer of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, and/or Dr Hadiyah-Nicole Green, a cancer researcher who is developing a method to treat cancer using laser and nanoparticles (at the experimental stage);
•Mentorships with STEM professionals one-on-one;
•The creation of student clubs and alliances where students with similar interests can come together to motivate and encourage each other toward their goals;
•Role-playing as STEM professionals, such as "doctor day" or "let's play mathematician for today".
As a STEM teacher, consider these questions: How many professional development workshops have you attended within the last 12 months, or within the last two to five years? Were you able to implement some of the new ideas learned into your classrooms? Do you take opportunities to incorporate technology or innovative strategies and tools into your lessons? If so, how have you measured the effectiveness of your strategies? If your newly acquired classroom strategies or learning tools are proving effective with your students, are you sharing findings with your colleagues so that it may inform or improve their classroom teaching methods? After all, good teaching can only result in good students' performance and promote the desire among students to learn, which ultimately can lead to more of your students wanting to pursue STEM.
Dr Pinder is an independent education consultant, an international university professor, and STEM educator with postdoctoral research fellowships and training in STEM education. Currently, she is also serving as a visiting honorary fellow at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus in Kingston, Jamaica. She considers herself a "concerned educator and true servant leader" on a mission to improve STEM education and education in general for minority groups, especially females and students of colour. You can contact her at email@example.com.
- We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper; email addresses will not be published.
- Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.
- We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.
- Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.
- Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email: email@example.com.