Title

Integrating Literacy into a Culturally Responsive STEM After School Program

First Presenter's Institution

Georgia Southern University

Second Presenter's Institution

Georgia Southern University

Third Presenter's Institution

Georgia Southern University

Fourth Presenter's Institution

N/A

Fifth Presenter's Institution

N/A

Location

Session 7 (Ballroom D)

Strand #1

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

Strand #2

Social & Emotional Skills

Relevance

This presentation will address two strands that are a focus of this conference – HEAD and HEART. This presentation will describe how literacy was incorporated into a STEM after school program that provided students an equitable opportunity to learn through purposeful academic instructional practices at our local Boys and Girls Club. This after school program implemented a caring curriculum to create a community of learners focused on developing collaborative skills, critical thinking skills, enhanced motivation and knowledge, improved self-esteem, and leadership skills.

Brief Program Description

This presentation will describe a culturally responsive STEM after school program conducted with middle-level students at our local Boys and Girls Club where students participated in various science topics. The students participated in reading and writing activities incorporating culturally relevant books, journal writing, hands-on projects, and a culminating science fair presentation on a topic of their choice.

Summary

The purpose of this after school program was to examine the influence of an after-school literacy in STEM program on middle grade students’ interest in science and mathematics learning. This study was conducted at our local Boys and Girls Club facilities. The program was implemented for ten weeks with two 1.5 hour sessions per week. This study addresses the following questions:

  1. How does a culturally responsive literacy in STEM after school program influence students’ interest and learning in science and mathematics?
  2. What is the effect of using literature, particularly picture books and graphic novels, to bridge the students’ understanding of scientific and mathematical concepts?

The effect of using picture books and graphic novels to bridge the students’ understanding of scientific and mathematical concepts was an important component of this study. Through these readings, we were able to assess students’ understanding, build background knowledge, and address all concepts and topics included in this program. The contextualized language and engaging stories kept students interested. Their enthusiasm for the graphics was demonstrated in their comments during our reading sessions. Throughout the readings, we would stop to ask questions and invite students to ask questions as well. Therefore, using culturally relevant, enabling (Tatum, 2006) literature was essential during the delivery of each lesson. The students were also offered opportunities to participate in science and robotics labs, created graphs and bricolage posters, wrote reflections, and created and presented a science project.

This study underscores the significance of providing after-school programs grounded on culturally responsive pedagogies to increase the students’ motivation to participate in STEM activities. Also, it highlights the importance of offering the students different opportunities to participate and demonstrate their learning. Although all students seemed to have benefitted from the program, we observed that the student who benefitted the most was Malcolm, who felt validated, acknowledged, and smart. Most importantly, this study reveals and corroborates the significance of the after-school programs offered by local chapters such as the Boys and Girls Club (Hirsch, 2011), and their need to establish partnerships with educational institutions to ensure a systematic collaboration with educators.

Evidence

The past two decades of educational reform efforts in the US brought the implementation of standards-based curriculum with the purpose of improving education. However, these measures have not prompted significant improvement among economically disadvantaged and underserved minority students, as demonstrated in recent national assessments (Hussar, & Bailey, 2017). Organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club provide at-risk youth from economically disadvantaged and underserved minority backgrounds with programs to enhance their academic and social skills. Building positive interactions between students and mentors in programs such as Boys and Girls clubs are shown to improve student achievement (Hirsch, 2011). Moreover, after school programs have positively impacted at-risk youths’ attitudes towards school and academic achievement (Little, Wimer, & Weiss, 2008). These alternative educational programs support students socially, emotionally, and intellectually (Feder, 2015).

The National Research Council (2012) frames science education as a cultural effort where cooperative and collaborative work is highly valued. This suggests the implementation of instructional strategies that connect with students’ sociocultural and academic background, and allow assessment via multiple, student-selected modalities. Research has shown that these pedagogical approaches are particularly effective in engaging adolescent learners (Gay, 2013; Ladson-Billings, 2014; Spiegel, et al., 2013). For this reason, we designed a literacy in STEM program grounded on culturally responsive pedagogy (Gay 2010; Ladson Billings, 1995), where the students’ cultures and experiential backgrounds are placed at the center of the curriculum. Using culturally relevant, enabling literature (Tatum, 2006) allows students to make connections with their lives and with positive role models and thus, to sustain their cultural identities frequently “erased through schooling” (Paris & Alim, 2017, p.1). Additionally, purposeful writing has a positive impact on students’ academic achievement, whether it is informal writing to develop students’ “skills in sharing their thoughts” (Fisher & Frey, 2016, p. 122), or formal writing where students present a final draft of a paper.

Feder, M. (2015). Identifying and supporting Productive STEM programs in Out-Of-School Settings. Washington, D.C: The National Academies Press.

Fisher, D. & Frey, N. (2016). Improving adolescent literacy: Content area strategies at work (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson

Gay, G. (2010). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice (2nd ed.) New York: Teachers College Press.

Gay, G. (2013). Teaching to and through cultural diversity. Curriculum Inquiry, 43(1), 48-70.

Hirch, B. (2011). Learning and Development in After-School Programs. Kappan, 92(5), 66-69.

Hussar, W. J., & Bailey, T. M. (2017). Projections of Education Statistics to 2025. NCES 2017-019. National Center for Education Statistics.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). But that’s just good teaching! The case for culturally relevant pedagogy. Theory into Practice, 34(3), 159−165.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2014). Culturally relevant pedagogy 2.0: aka the remix. Harvard Educational Review, 84(1), 74-84.

Little, P., Wimer, C., & Weiss, H. B. (2008). After school programs in the 21st century: Their potential and what it takes to achieve it. Issues and opportunities in out-of-school time evaluation, 10(1-12).

Paris, D. & Alim, S. (Eds.). (2017). Culturally Sustaining pedagogies: teaching and learning for justice in a changing world. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Spiegel, A. N., McQuillan, J., Halpin, P., Matuk, C., & Diamond, J. (2013). Engaging teenagers with science through comics. Research in science education, 43(6), 2309-2326.

Tatum, A. W. (2006). Engaging African American males in reading. Educational Leadership, 63(5), 44 - 49.

This research was supported by a Georgia Southern University Faculty Service Grant.

Format

Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Shelli Casler-Failing is an Assistant Professor of Middle and Secondary Mathematics Education at Georgia Southern University. Her research investigates the methods and strategies for improving instructional practices in the learning of mathematics. She focuses much of her research on how the integration of LEGO robotics can promote equitable mathematics learning for all students. She also examines how teacher candidates’ understanding of teaching with LEGO robotics technology can be enhanced through in-depth learning in their mathematics methods classes.

Alma D. Stevenson is an Associate Professor of Literacy at Georgia Southern University. Her research explores sociocultural perspectives on literacy in culture, identity, science, and academic achievement. She seeks to cultivate affective support and positive identity formation in historically marginalized minorities, especially Latina/os and African-Americans. Her research looks to construct empowering curricula and pedagogies that advocate for social justice and educational equity. She also examines resources to support culturally sustaining pedagogies including literature for youth and home languages and cultures.

Beverly King Miller is an Assistant Professor of Elementary Science Education in the College of Education at Georgia Southern University. Her scholarly work focuses on the persistence of Afro Caribbean females in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) training and careers. Research includes qualitative studies related to the inclusion of underrepresented groups such as Latina/Latino and those of African descent. Dr. Miller has instituted STEM after school and Saturday programs in under-served communities in the United States, South Africa and Panama City, Panama.

Keyword Descriptors

Culturally-responsive, middle-level students, STEM, after school program, literacy

Presentation Year

March 2020

Start Date

3-10-2020 2:45 PM

End Date

3-10-2020 4:00 PM

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Mar 10th, 2:45 PM Mar 10th, 4:00 PM

Integrating Literacy into a Culturally Responsive STEM After School Program

Session 7 (Ballroom D)

This presentation will describe a culturally responsive STEM after school program conducted with middle-level students at our local Boys and Girls Club where students participated in various science topics. The students participated in reading and writing activities incorporating culturally relevant books, journal writing, hands-on projects, and a culminating science fair presentation on a topic of their choice.