5 Strategies for Inspiring an Inclusive STEM Culture in Your School
5 Strategies for Inspiring an Inclusive STEM Culture in Your School

5 Strategies for Inspiring an Inclusive STEM Culture in Your School

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K-12 coding and STEM, Girls in STEM
Updated: March 2024 Mar. 2024
4 minutes read
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K-12 coding and STEM, Girls in STEM
Inclusive STEM Program

In order to support a diverse educational community, it’s crucial that schools find ways to foster inclusivity across the curriculum. Diversity and inclusion are particularly important in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) disciplines, where minority groups are systemically underrepresented.

Schools can implement a variety of strategies that make STEM more inclusive and inviting to students. By cultivating an environment that uplifts every student––regardless of their background, gender, or abilities––schools can inspire students to pursue and succeed in STEM majors and careers.

Visibility and representation are paramount for cultivating an inclusive STEM culture at your school. Highlighting diverse STEM role models such as astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, astronaut Mae Jemison, science communicator Stephanie Castillo, or molecular biologists Tsuneko and Reiji Okazaki shows students that everyone can achieve success in STEM disciplines. Learning about STEM role models who students can identify with opens up students’ perspectives and enables them to develop a more diverse image of who can be successful in STEM careers. Seeing people who look like them succeed also can help students picture their own success in future STEM educational endeavors and careers.

In order to provide every student with an equitable opportunity to learn and build an interest in STEM subjects, schools must take steps to ensure STEM courses, labs, clubs, and other activities are accessible. To accomplish this, schools need to implement teaching methodologies to meet students’ different needs. Programs that engage students using gamification, that have online access from any computer or device, and programs that are scaffolded to match students of all levels will be important for success. Multi-lingual capabilities and accessibility features will further encourage all students to participate. Applications like CoderZ that use game-based learning and research driven curricula are designed from the ground up to enable STEM learning for all students.

Implementing collaborative learning activities and group projects throughout your school’s STEM curricula can help students develop a more inclusive mindset about who can be successful in STEM subjects. Cooperative tasks encourage students to identify and appreciate their peers’ diverse abilities and perspectives. Group activities also provide an opportunity for educators to teach students about the importance of listening to different viewpoints, respecting peer’s contributions, and working toward a common goal. Plus, the ability to work with a team is a valuable skillset that will benefit students in all aspects of their lives, promoting inclusivity beyond the classroom.

Establishing mentorship programs enables students to connect with professionals from diverse backgrounds to learn about their differing experiences in STEM careers. Mentorships can help students identify their interests and turn them into aspirations, guiding them toward potential internships, apprenticeships, and college opportunities.

Likewise, establishing chapters of professional organizations and clubs helps cultivate community and expand support networks. STEM organizations can connect students with resources, scholarships, and industry professionals to help them succeed in STEM programs and careers. Identity-focused professional organizations––such as the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), and Black Girls Code––connect students with peers and mentors from similar backgrounds, leading to a greater sense of belonging and stronger systems of support.

Your school’s teachers are the heart of your STEM program, so it’s important to hire a diverse group of highly-qualified educators. Representation at every level––from program coordinators to teachers in the classroom––is essential to breaking down stereotypes about who can pursue an interest in STEM and providing students with real-life STEM role models. Highly-qualified STEM educators will have the knowledge and tools to create an inclusive and equitable curriculum that can engage all students.

Likewise, it’s crucial to hire educators who know how to promote an inclusive STEM curriculum in order to create an engaging and welcoming space for all students. Schools can further advocate for inclusivity by providing ongoing professional development to ensure all teachers are equipped to create an inclusive STEM learning environment.

In summary, it’s also important to note that not every student will be captivated by STEM subjects, but they can still benefit from learning STEM concepts and critical thinking skills. To make STEM subjects compelling for all students, schools should develop STEM programs with the ranging interests of students in mind, including those who want to pursue careers in literature, social sciences, and the arts.  Integration with other disciplines will ensure a holistic learning experience.

Fostering an inclusive STEM culture in schools requires a comprehensive approach that acknowledges the different needs and experiences of every student. By implementing some of these strategies, schools can inspire students to explore their STEM interests, develop lifelong skills, and consider STEM pathways in college and their future careers.

Written by:
Graham Celine
Written by:
Graham Celine

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