By Dr Patrice Juliet Pinder, EdD, MSc, BSc, AA
Very recently, I was asked to speak to a group of dynamic Bahamian STEM educators at the end of the 2020-2021 school year meeting for the Bahamas’ Association of Science Educators (BASE), and I was asked to offer strategies to get Bahamian students, especially girls, into STEM. To that end, I offer the following initiatives or strategies to teachers:
Start STEM exposure very early on in your students’ learning process — as early as preschool and continue this early exposure throughout the primary school years. During this time, the intent of you the teacher should be:
- To introduce your students to basic STEM concepts; and
- To pique their curiosity and build an interest and motivation toward STEM disciplines, such as science, math or basic technology. Research is finding that early exposure is key, and has positive impacts across the learning spectrum of students (National Research Council, 2012).
Create opportunities for learning STEM concepts through fun-filled, play-based activities. In a 2017 Nassau Guardian article, I stated the following: “The traditional ‘chalk and talk’ teaching method is no longer considered the norm in motivating students to learn…so, things like game-based learning or play-based learning can be used in Bahamian schools at the primary level to improve achievement.”
Teachers must find ways to effectively and creatively integrate play activities into their teaching. According to STEM Caribbean News (2020), Jamaican artists are exploring ways to integrate reggae beats into the Jamaican curriculum. Just imagine if Bahamian teachers infused the pulsating sounds of our “rake n’ scrape beats” or “Junkanoo music” within the science curriculum content. Excitement for students indeed.
Expose your students intentionally to:
- Professionals of excellence, especially Black professionals of excellence in STEM. For example, Black girls can be exposed to successful Black female medical doctors or research scientists who can be locally based in The Bahamas and can give classroom talks to students. Teachers can also facilitate video presentations on international women who are excelling in STEM, such as Dr Kizzmekia Corbett, developer of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, and/or Dr Hadiyah Nicole Green, a cancer researcher who is developing a method to treat cancer using laser and nanoparticles (at the experimental stage);
- Mentorships with STEM professionals one-on-one;
- The creation of student clubs and alliances where students with similar interests can come together to motivate and encourage each other toward their goals; and
- Role-playing as STEM professionals, such as doctor day or “let’s play mathematician for today”.
As a STEM teacher, consider these questions: How many professional development workshops have you attended within the last 12 months, or within the last two to five years? Were you able to implement some of the new ideas learned into your classrooms? Do you take opportunities to incorporate technology or innovative strategies and tools into your lessons? If so, how have you measured the effectiveness of your strategies? If your newly acquired classroom strategies or learning tools are proving effective with your students, are you sharing findings with your colleagues so that it may inform or improve their classroom teaching methods? After all, good teaching can only result in good students’ performance and promote the desire among students to learn, which ultimately can lead to more of your students wanting to pursue STEM.
Dr Patrice Pinder is an international university professor and STEM educator with post-doctoral research fellowships and training in STEM education. She considers herself a “concerned Bahamian and true servant leader” on a mission to improve STEM education and education in general in The Bahamas. Contact email@example.com.