LabXchange convenes a community that believes in the importance of diversity and inclusion. One of our collaborators, Visibility in STEM, uses the narrative and lived experiences of Black heritage to explore and contextualize key concepts in STEM. We sat down with Dr. Catherine L. Quinlan to discuss some of the work she does.
What's one thing LabXchange users should know about Visibility in STEM?
Visibility In STEM uses the lived experiences and narratives of Black heritage to explore science concepts and contextualize science ideas. More importantly, Visibility In STEM uses the cultural and social assets of Black heritage to engage, explore, and provide meaningful and interesting inclusion. Students’ learning experience is enhanced as they learn science concepts alongside critical perspectives, such as issues of sustainability and social justice. It is important to note that the approach used by Dr. Catherine Quinlan who is founder, CEO and President of Visibility In STEM, LLC is to ensure that students’ experiences empower them while allowing them to be competitive, as they meet state and national science standards. The approach to design of materials considers the importance of social and cultural factors that influence what education Black children receive.
What's one fun fact about Visibility in STEM?
Visibility in STEM also addresses visibility in children’s books and visibility in reading and literacy. The Keystone Passage chapter book series for early readers age 5 to 12 capitalizes on ideas behind both the content and process of learning about culture and science. The children in this book go on adventures, but this time they learn about Black heritage and perspectives that reflect everyday Black experiences and narratives. For example, in the first book titled To Africa And Back, the protagonist Cliff, along with his cousins Monty, Shandra, and Quisha encounter an artifact that transports them from the coast of South Carolina to ancient and modern Africa where they learn a great deal. The second book of this chapter book series is now out. The story lines get better and better and I’m extremely excited about the third book. These fun books are created to encourage effective but fun integration in reading literacy and science literacy for early chapter book readers. The content and perspective also provide opportunity for interesting discussions integrated with science for experienced readers. See here for chapter book series information.
What is Visibility in STEM's vision for science education?
Visibility In STEM’s vision for science education is that the lived experiences and narratives of Black heritage, particularly African American experiences and narratives, be meaningfully integrated within science. Visibility In STEM plans to become an exemplar for meaningful learning that is inclusive of the assets, cultural, cognitive, linguistic, social, and other resources and capital of the African Diaspora, particularly Blacks in the United States. See my website and my YouTube channel for examples and resources.
Tell us what motivates you to continue creating/communicating your amazing content!
What motivates me are the following thoughts. I think about Black children who need to do more to adapt and navigate spaces that were not created to allow them to thrive. I think about Black children who are expected to do and be more but are not given the same level of respect, vision, or freedom to flourish and develop a sense of agency. I think of Black children who are prepared using behavior management approaches that expect them to conform and adapt rather than be prepared by those who are themselves open to grow and become better engagers. More importantly now that I am a mother I observe that among the resources available, children have very little opportunity to learn, embrace, appreciate, or enjoy the richness of Black narratives and lived experiences in fun, loving ways—as is done in other cultures, particularly White Western culture. I think about the emotional stress that accumulates over time beginning from childhood when Blacks live in an environment they have helped to build, but are still treated as inferior, even by the well intentioned and well meaning, because children become adults who internalize meanings even when unintended, such as Blacks are inferior – which a lack of visibility or ceremonial visibility reinforces.
Interested in learning more about Dr. Quinlan's academic work? Her article "Creating an Instrument to Measure Social and Cultural Self‑efficacy Indicators for Persistence of HBCU Undergraduates in STEM" was recently published in Research in Science Education.
Who are the LabXchange content collaborators? View our growing list of content collaborators here.