Want To Dismantle Racism In Science? Start In The Classroom

Short Wave


All right today in the show were unscrewing what's not working in science education around representation and racism, and how to teach science in a more inclusive way and idea from listener and scientists Esther Kunle yes. Thanks to Esther we went looking for K., through twelve teachers teaching at the intersection, of Science, and racial justice at all grade levels I want to start with. Let me see fears. She's a post doctoral fellow in the collaborative for stem education and outreach at Vanderbilt. Okay. She's a black scientist. Out in science classrooms Tennessee in among fifth graders. At this one particular school, she is a total rockstar. So walk into a classroom and they'll be like. Yeah it's me. It's me everyone autographs today. We lit up each others world. Our say, let me see a drops into fifth seventh and eighth grade. Science classrooms like a real life. Miss Frizzle I'm not kidding you. She wheels the cart between classes clattering with beakers and different very interesting looking chemicals and students. They're so intrigued they run up to our like remind wife we've. Just all that stuff and then when she's in the classroom, let me see a doesn't just help them run experiments. She'll also delve into the ethics of designing an experiment. Okay. She'll talk about how wrong the Tuskegee study was, which is winning scientists studied syphilis in black men and withheld treatment Sushi's like introducing bioethics to kids as important part of the curriculum. Yup. Scientists are presented as very human herself included and her students can totally handle these conversations. We see what's happening with this generation with them protest and they're speaking out on, they're not having it. They're not. They're not going to allow us to continue to destroy their and our point is that if science teachers can tap into that compassion and That curiosity and show the way that scientists have messed up. Kids might take an interest in science I love, and if we can't do that, then we are GonNa lose them and I think it's hard for minority kids. They already don't see themselves as the teacher or the Christmas doing the science. So that already unemployed simple block of well, that's just what the old white man with the crazy hairdo. and. So another thing let me see Ya does is namedrop scientists of color as often as possible. She'll talk about a physicist did Eisler medical physicists had he and Ecole, green astronauts, Joseph Akaba, and genetic APPs. She designed a paper rocket lesson around them and this helps kids develop a mental picture of a career in stem beyond a doctor or a dentist. This is so cool because it's not just about teaching science history, right? It's also helping students see themselves as scientists and for Gretchen Craig. Turner. The next teacher I, want to introduce you to. This level of engagement becomes even more important students get older and start to you know get into their teenage years and develop their own opinions their own opinions about science. Yeah. You know to be critical of it. Oh. Yeah. That was not in my k. through twelve science education hers either I don't remember a lot of writing or opinions being a part of science. In fact, it was very much I believe taught the opinions didn't belong in science right that it was supposed to be a right answer Gretchen teaches. At Burlington Edison High. School. In Washington state she is white and her classroom to be as inclusive as possible and to reflect the diversity of the student body and in her first year of teaching a biotech class. This was back in two thousand, ten in English teacher gave her a copy of the book. The immortal life of Henrietta lacks was like you should teach the steer students. Yeah. So the history of the Hilo Cell Line Yep. So Henrietta, lacks cancer cells were used for years by scientists without her family's knowledge cells that. One. Of the most important cell lines in medical research, her case raises so many questions about patients, rights. Yep questions raised in this book. So Gretchen got a bunch of hardcover books for her class and we read it and. It shaped how I teach in tremendous ways because the students responded to it. So strongly, you know they were excited maybe not at first I still get a lot of Turner. This isn't an English class, right but but they got into it. So into it, it is a six week unit the book in a Science Class. STUDENTS DO SELL labs while they're reading and they journal to. Okay so they're jotting down notes on different themes like medical apartheid informed consent lab science, and at the end they write a big paper and also oftentimes in class, there will be students who who's own families have experienced medical apartheid in the. Effects of that and I think some of the students and see themselves in the story of the lacks family. The conversations become really personal and probing not. You know necessarily what you'd expect in science class but exactly what Gretchen is hoping for well I, think what you know many young people ultimately want from their teachers is to be seen into be heard. And so if the science curriculum. if they feel seen and heard through that curriculum, they're more invested. So when her students learn about genetic testing, Gretchen includes a film about the innocence project and they're a group that uses DNA testing to exonerate those who've been wrongfully imprisoned. And Gretchen has her students, write poetry and songs as kind of oaths to those wrongfully convicted my blood, my skin, my hair, all held the key to my freedom DNA. My eyes glazed over desperate for relief with a pain. I now understood my hand reaches for I. Don't Know How often you're around teenagers. But the. Teenagers of this just tremendous sense of justice and what is right you know, and so those conversations are often very passionate for students But it's also the world that they live in. Wow I mean kwong, there's so many things in here. That are so powerful in and I know there's a lot of science teacher who listened to shortwave who might want to incorporate racial justice in history into their teaching too I mean, where do they look well Gretchen and let me see a- had the same advice which is at teachers should fill in the gaps in their own racial understanding I learn about the history of science or their field, and that's exactly what the last teacher I spoke with is doing. Vigia satiety is a college professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and looking critically at her own field statistics has been hard painful work. You know I honestly I just feel like I'm I missed something that was really important to learn about my discipline and I'm I'm a little bit mad at myself for not being curious on my own to figure out the origins of things and she has been startled to realize the full extent to which modern statistics draws upon the work of you. Genesis Francis Colton Karl Pearson Ronald Fisher. Some of the most foundational tools and stem like the normal distribution curve were applied to support their racist and eugenicist theories tools that we. Use today, but we don't really stop to think about the people who created them and why they created them. So the is trying to stop to teach yourself where these came from, but to not rush the process with some slapdash curriculum, she wants to incorporate these historical into her classes with care I want to give it the space deserves and of course, and not not to feel like this awkward add on that people can optionally engage in in a way that centers the students Vigie like all the teachers I spoke with designs, her classes by asking herself who's being left behind with this material, and how can I bring them along? That's what can be gained from. And anti-racist science education I think all of us in our minds have been in or heard of course where the professor says look to the laugh looked the right. One of you won't be here at the end of this time or you know something horrible this should not ever be uttered in a classroom. I say look to your left to your right like I. Want you all to stay. I want you all the love my field as much as I. Love my field because there's so many interesting things you could do with it and we really could use your wonderful mind and our discipline. We could use your perspective and the things that you bring. So basically to change science, we have to change how we teach science. To fix the lab gotta fix the classroom.

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