Leveraging Place in Culturally Responsive Science Teaching
Often, when thinking about outdoors science education, our minds go to places with extensive natural resources – ponds, forests, rivers, fields. But outdoor science education can occur anywhere, including places such as school grounds and the nearby communities, and it doesn’t require pristine natural settings. In fact, learning outdoors can be more meaningful when it is connected to the places students spend their time and live their lives, As educators and researchers, we know that making education meaningful to our students and connecting it to their lives makes the learning space more vibrant and supports their learning. In this month’s theme, we bring together two types of such education, culturally responsive and place-based, and ask how we can leverage them to create high-quality urban science education.
Culturally responsive teaching (Ladson-Billings, 1994; Gay, 2018) recognizes that attending to the culture of students’ lives, families, and communities supports learning. Culturally responsive teaching emphasizes context (how content is meaningful to students in their lives) and cultural capital – the unique strengths and resources students bring to the classroom because of their experiences growing up in different cultures that may be overlooked or undervalued in traditional education. Can such education be divorced from the places where students live their lives?
After all, place is more than a physical location – it is the meaning we make of that location, including social and cultural aspects in the past, present, and looking towards the future. Place-based education utilizes the community and environment to teach content across the curriculum. It focuses on authentic, hands-on experiences that connect the classroom and the community. Greenwood’s Critical Pedagogy of Place (2003) connects place-based education with a critical perspective that questions power and privilege and asks the questions “'What happened here?' 'What is happening here now and in what direction is this place headed?' and 'What should happen here?'" to explore those concepts. Our question for this monthly theme is how can we use place, and Greenwood’s questions, to make our science teaching more culturally responsive.
Panelists for this month's webinar and discussion include: Gail Richmond, Professor of Science & Urban Education and Director of Teacher Preparation Programs at Michigan State University; Mike Szydlowski K-12 Science Coordinator at Columbia Public Schools and Science Teachers of Missouri Past President; Anna Lees (Waganakasing Odawa, descendant), Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at Western Washington University; Beatriz Cañas, Director of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility initiatives at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
We have put together a playlist of videos from the STEM for All Multiplex that represent culturally responsive and place-based science education. Please take the time to review these videos before the panel, and think about how they represent culturally responsive teaching and place-based education and how leveraging place can support teaching science in a culturally responsive way. We hope that you will join in this month's webinar and discussion.