Resistance Through Teaching STEM

The 2016 presidential election ushered in a series of challenging conversations in my urban classroom. The work we do as educators is inherently political and our beliefs, and biases will undoubtably surface through our interactions with students. Teaching, when done purposefully, can be an act of resistance.

After completing my Teach for America commitment, I found myself wanting to arm my students with additional skills as I imagined them inheriting Trump’s America. After researching which skills would be powerful in the hands of young people of color, I decided that I wanted to teach my students to code. I wanted them to have political power (consider the past Twitter revolutions or the influence of Facebook). Also, I wanted my students to have financial autonomy and be able to invest in their communities.

coding-for-students-salaries.pngdiversity-problem-STEM

And most of all, I wanted to make Obama proud.

At first, it felt like an aspirational burst of passion that quickly faded. I downloaded some free apps on my phone to help me teach myself how to code (I had only a basic, foundational understanding from building my Neopets page many years ago.). No success. When I was haphazardly trying to learn how to code, I was bored, confused, and frustrated with the scale of the task. I didn’t know how I was going to retain this information and relay it to to students in an engaging way.

Then, I found code.org. This website allowed me to create accounts for all of my students so that they could access a free, gamified coding curriculum. This isn’t a sponsored post, just one educator trying to pass on an awesome tool to others in the hopes that more students will have access to this program.

This is the user interface for students.

code-org-challenge

This is page I used to monitor my student’s progress.

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I talked to my administrator, drafted up my permission slips, and held my first coding club! To be fair, I was able to procure access to the school’s laptop cart but if I didn’t have this luxury, I would have gotten on Donor’s Choose and fundraised for some Kindle Fires. This was a roadblock I experienced at my old school and I have found these to be an inexpensive solution.

Since the club’s inception, I’ve built stronger relationships with my students and celebrated their rising test scores! My next project is to explore the possibility of fundraising for them to attend a Hackathon hosted by Black Girls Code.

Fellow educators, please reach out if you have any questions about coding programs or share insight about your own experience resisting through STEM education.

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