When I attended my first TWIN-CS Summer Academy this year, I was intrigued to learn that promoting sociocultural competence is one of the three primary goals of dual language education programs. I had to ask myself, “Am I doing this in my classroom?” Having just completed my first year as the middle school math and science teacher at Saint Matthew in Phoenix, AZ, I was forced to realize that my approach to these subjects might have been a bit too “clinical.” For the program to be truly effective, even the traditional STEM classes should aim to achieve all of its goals—including sociocultural competence.
This year, in an attempt to promote such an understanding and hopefully increase student engagement in the subject matter of my classes, I have chosen to incorporate several prominent Hispanic and Latino/a scientists into the structure of our class. Our student population is 99% Hispanic and Latino/a, and it is important for the students to see role models in various scientific fields to whom they can relate. Each class is divided into four teams—each named for a Hispanic/Latino/a STEM role model—that will work together intermittently throughout the year for various lessons, projects, and competitions. The goal is to pay homage to figures whose accomplishments in their respective fields are not as widely known, due to the underrepresentation of their demographic in STEM.
Eventually, the student teams will conduct research projects and make presentations to the class about their team’s namesakes. Ideally, this project will provide an opportunity for the class to realize that not all scientists have to look like Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton. In celebrating the scientific achievements of figures from many different Latin American cultures, my hope is that my students will not only come to understand that pursuing a STEM-related career is a viable option for them, but also grow in global citizenship through the appreciation of the accomplishments of marginalized individuals and cultures.
Saint Matthew Catholic School