STEM Identities

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Research indicates that very few students view themselves as STEM learners when investigating a question or problem in their community.  Whereas previous research indicates a lack of diversity in STEM education and careers and specific schools structures that support successful STEM integration, there is a greater need to research what elementary school structures support students of color in STEM curricular areas.  When researching mathematics education in working class Latina/o communities, Marta Civil (2014) feels that her interests in learning as a cultural process, and in particular the concept of funds of knowledge.  I believe that this conceptual framework can be extended to STEM learning.  For example, Luis Moll, Cathy Amanti, Deborah Neff, and Norma Gonzalez (2005, p. 72) explain “we use the term funds of knowledge to refer to these historically accumulated and culturally developed bodies of knowledge and skills essential for household or individual functioning and well-being.”   By placing STEM education under a sociocultural lens, Civil (2014) sees connections between making connections to mathematics in the real world and STEM.  STEM learning must be connected to the real world.  At its heart, the engineering-design process lays a lifelong framework of the continual process of improvement by connecting the principles of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  She goes on to say that “we need to understand better the role of valorization of knowledge particularly as it applies to everyday practices versus practices in STEM disciplines” (Civil, 2014, p. 15).  All students, but especially marginalized students, need to see themselves as STEM learners, problem finders and problem solvers.  Research supports that when students bridge out-of-school concepts with in-school content, they make “robust, authentic connections” in this third space (Gutierrez, et al. 1999).  Researchers agree on the need to reform traditional ideologies of a rigorous education to one of STEM-foundational thinking.  There is a lack of STEM self-identity for students of color at the elementary level.  I believe that promoting STEM-foundational thinking is not “dependent on a particular curriculum” or amount of resources (Walker, 2012, p. 86).  It is dependent on a teacher’s willingness to possess an innovator’s mindset (Couros, 2015) and instill a sense of risk-taking creativity in the classroom.