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ADOPTING INCLUSIVE PRACTICES COULD HELP ADDRESS REPRESENTATION OF GIRLS/BIPOC COMMUNITY IN STEAM



According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics, the United States of America’s overall unemployment figures continues to be relatively low, however, a closer inspection of the data reveals that the percentage and rate of growth of the unemployment skilled labor sector is disproportionate to the unskilled labor sector, which analysis contribute to a skills gap. This means that a multitude of jobs are left vacant in the U.S. due to a lack of qualified candidates. The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology project that the number of skilled labor jobs will continue to grow as STEAM job production increases over the next decade, which inferences that the unemployment figure in the U.S. will likewise continue to grow creating an economic impact like the housing market bubble and the dotcom bubble; is the unemployment bubble next?


According to the economic projections by U.S. News, STEM jobs have grown faster (17%) than the current job growth rate (10%) in all other workforces. Employers are looking for people with advanced skills, while job seekers struggle to determine which skills are needed and where they can learn them. According to American manufacturers, finding prospective workers with the skill set required to perform necessary job functions, such as basic math and technological computing functions, is increasingly becoming difficult. If this problem is left unresolved, this could compromise manufacturers' ability to stay competitive accordingly, which will lead to further market share loss to foreign manufacturing companies. To address this issue and remain competitive with foreign education K-12 systems, the U.S. has begun to increase STEM education funding. In 2018 per the Congressional Research Services an approximate $3.4 billion was spent on STEM Education (https://crsreports.congress.gov). Therefore, as funding and regulatory improvements are made to the K-12 system, the soil is ripe for continued advancements in enrichment programs to prepare students (especially male students of color) to pursue STEAM degrees, specialized training, and a career in STEAM.

Furthermore, as advancements in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Arts (STEAM) fields continue to generated considerable knowledge fueling scientific and technological innovations, the K-12 STEAM education need to adopt, implement, and build a coherent, integrated, and interdisciplinary approach to K-12 STEAM education to address the current and growing challenge of recruiting skilled workers in the 21st Century workforce, which is vital to the growth, stability, and security to our national economy.

A viable solution to aid in the continued improvements of K-12 STEAM education and student preparedness as it relates to STEAM degree obtainment and STEAM field career pathways to create an environment that motivates students' participation through inclusion, equity, and diversity. Countless studies have shown that an environment that fosters inclusive practices and provides equity and diversity in recruiting girls, blacks, indigenous, and other students of color to stems careers and innovation, better practices, expansion, and empowerment, would positions our nation to compete on the global market.

A workable method that could help girls and children, part of the BIPOC communities, develop and enhance their acquisition of STEAM skills is the adoption of a practical and experiential STEAM curriculum standards of learning and teaching like the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to address not only the specific content of each STEAM disciplinary study, but encourage the overarching ideas of integration of the STEAM disciplines, inclusion, equity, and diversity in all the 50 states of the United States and the District of Columbia. Using standards like the NGSS to encourage inclusivity, equity, and diversity is a creative approach to utilizing curriculum standards as a framework for addressing the issue of inclusion, diversity, and equity facing K-12 STEAM education in the United States and increasing students' interest in pursuing degrees and careers in the STEAM fields.


Additionally, when it comes to the representation of girls and students’ part of the BIPOC communities in STEAM and increasing their interest in pursuing degrees, specialized training, and careers in the STEAM fields, parental and community involvement must not be overlooked. A 2018 Bayer Facts survey 2018AnnualReport.pdf(crscience.org) indicates that school leaders should include family engagement in supporting students in the STEAM pathway from Pre-K through high school. The same study also indicates that about 60 percent of urban schoolteachers want more emphasis on science education.


One-way schools could encourage parental involvement in fostering their child’s interest in STEAM and nurture their child’s confidence is through collaboration amongst the educators, parents, and student’s byway of developing interactive, hands-on activities, field studies, and field experiences at schools that are predominately BIPOC. This collaboration and interaction between parents and educators planning interesting or “cool” activities aligned to the NGSS standards in addition to involving the students during parent teacher conferences, open houses, or school events could assist in addressing the issue of inclusion, diversity, and equity facing K-12 STEAM education in the United States and increase students' interest in pursuing degrees and careers in the STEAM fields. Moreover, getting the teachers, the parents, and the students to collaborate over fun and interactive activities aligned to STEAM-oriented standards could prompt the parents at home to encourage and support their child’s development of STEAM-oriented skills.


The proposed collaboration amongst parents, teachers, and students is supported by research and data from the Center for Public Education (CPE). The CPE, a research branch of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), agrees and recommends four STEM strategies for family engagement STEM with Family Engagement (nsba.org). They suggest that schools create a short list of community resources on STEM for students to take home and share with parents. Schools should discuss STEAM and the family's important role in STEAM education. Schools should encourage parents to foster their child's interest in STEAM and nurture their confidence; and schools should mentor parents to start math learning early and make it a daily practice in addition to science, technology, engineering, reading, and writing.


A creative approach like the one recommended by the CPE, which encourages collaboration between educators, parents, and children designing STEAM-oriented activities creates an inclusive and equitable learning environment that motivates students to take a step forward on the path to a career in STEAM. Collaboration between educators, parents, and students could even help foster STEAM Ecosystems within the BIPOC communities and unite communities and engage educators and individuals within and outside a formal educational setting.


Another essential strategy for getting parents and the BIPOC community involved is resource sharing and communication through social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter about local STEAM activities taking place in schools and community centers open to the public in addition to STEAM field scholarships, job opportunities, and internships. Communication through the social media platforms could be done weekly or monthly and supplemented with blast emails and newsletters to the parents. Studies show consistent communication helps parents maintain involvement in their students’ academics and understand how they can support in and outside the classroom. To assist the educators and school leaders develop effective parental engagement communication a survey could be utilized to gather information on the parents' perspective and understanding of the STEAM field as it relates to their children's STEAM education and future collegiate scholarship, internship, and career opportunities, which in turn would also assist the educators on the type of training and resources the parents would need in-home to be successful.

Another way for teachers to increase student in home STEAM education support is to host free parent trainings and workshops so that the parents have a basic knowledge of the curriculum and educational policies for proper implementation at home. Although, some could argue that getting parents to attend training opportunities can be challenging, many parents would listen and collaborate on STEAM-related issues during STEAM nights or conference days with the right incentives like food, door prizes, free ticket, and inviting their favorite celebrities.


The strategies listed are just a few of many alternatives that could be implemented in K-12 schools to increase BIPOC representation in STEAM education. Please let me know what you feel, think, and share your suggestion on increasing BIPOC representation in STEAM.


Authored by Dr. Ayo Olufade

RAISE THE ROOF TO RAISE GIRLS AND BIPOC REPRESENTATION IN PURSUING COLLEGE AND CAREERS IN THE STEM FIELDS! ~ Dr. Ayo Olufade, PhD

Think Integrated STEM Careers! You Have the Opportunity

to Create the Future and The Privilege of Deciding What's in It! ~ Dr. Ayo

Olufade, PhD

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