High school science instructor Veronica Wylie has an idea that will take her students to new heights – or rather, new rooms.
The Mississippi teacher is facing the problem of representation in science by obtaining a diving certificate and she is working with her non-profit partners through archeology and marine life training.
If all goes according to plan, Wylie won’t be teaching marine biology from her class next year. While exploring the African slave trade ship off the coast of Florida, she and her students will be surrounded by the small town of Hazelhurst, about 35 miles southwest of the state capital, Jackson.
“I have smart, smart students who often don’t have all the opportunities and resources I’ve made and it’s my responsibility to bring some things here,” says Wylie. “These are probably some of the smartest students I’ve ever taught.”
Wylie adds that there are only three schools in the school district where she teaches chemistry and physics, and the students are mainly African Americans with a growing Latino population. If you ask students to take a photo of a scientist, she said, chances are they’ll give you a picture of an old white man.
“We usually focus on Einstein or Newton, and rarely have conversations about other people who have contributed to science,” says Wylie. “When we talk about representation, it’s hard to want people to be like they’ve never been before. If they have never seen a black man or woman or Hispanic or anyone in the area [as a scientist], There is no concept that this is possible. ”
Wiley is not alone in believing that representation plays an important role in helping students succeed. It’s also important on the front side of the class. Researcher At the University of Pennsylvania, it was found that the unforgivable absence of Latino students decreased when they had more Latino teachers. And it’s also important in the learning literature, says six colleges and universities in Massachusetts that have jointly created a new catalog of culturally relevant textbooks in hopes of improving student outcomes.
“Cultural ability is about creating an environment in which students can feel and be themselves.” Write “Authors of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: A Model for Guiding Cultural Transformation in STEM Departments.” “This is significant in the STEM field, which is plagued by stereotypes of ‘lone geniuses’ and ‘white men in lab coats’.”
In the deep end
Wylie’s path to becoming a sea scholar had nothing to do with teaching at first. Her interest came from articles about journalists and scuba divers Michael Cotman, Who has dived and made history on the history of the sunken colonial slave ship off the coast of Florida.
“I thought, ‘How in the world would I do that?'” Wiley recalls. “I was an African American study teenager [in college], And I was so fascinated. I was googling like crazy. ”
It was from her research that Wylie came to the fore One purpose diving, A nonprofit that partners with the National Association of Black Scuba Divers to educate the public and protect important submerged heritage sites for the African Diaspora.
Wylie, who trained her scuba training in Atlanta with the president of the National Association of Black Divers, says, “I never thought people of color would participate in this sport. Wylie paid for her training by a Funding for teachers Fellowship
When she learned that non-profit is a youth program, Wylie saw how it was incorporated into her marine biology curriculum. She began to create a plan to engage her students.
Wylie says that in the landlocked Hazelhurst, her students will hopefully take their own Youth Diving with Purpose Scuba training in the lakes and then visit the shore. When everyone is ready to go dive next year, there will be a two-day trip to explore sites like cruise ships, coral reefs and rock queries.
Beyond diving, Wylie is collaborating with the National Association of Black Divers to develop culturally relevant courses for their training – and she has found materials for her own class of work. She is already running her own small non-profit organization Stem south Which aims to break the stereotypes around those who deserve a place in science.
“In the textbooks, on the posters, there are very few people who look like me,” says Wylie. “This does not mean that we should exclude those already represented. The rest of us want to see and be represented. One of my goals in working on this course is to make them look like people in the community. ”
A great experience
Wylie’s own negative experience in science class helps her students understand that they can enjoy the subject – or at least, they can succeed even if they are not successful in science.
Wiley, who grew up in Denver to high school age, did not lose sight of the fact that, as a black student, she was expelled for “microaggression” from “extremely despicable” teachers. Like a coach who joked every day that Wylie seemed to be under the influence in class.
“I had comments about intelligence, she said jokingly, but I had a big hatred for biology,” she recalls.
Wylie got the last word, literally, with one of her teachers. After graduating from college, she went back to her high school to share the news. Despite the abusive remarks he made when she was his student, he looked excited to see her.
“I said, ‘I’m working as a chemical technician in Thousand Oaks, California, I have a degree in chemistry, and I make more money than you,’ and that was the end of the discussion,” Wylie recalls. “I needed to say, ‘You thought I was stupid, and I wasn’t.’
It wasn’t the smartest decision of the prequel, she admits, as Wylie later became an alternative teacher at the school. They never became permanent colleagues, but Wylie says that when she got a full-time job at a different school, all her work was done where she had a close mentor.
She says, “God will allow the doors to close so you can walk through your right door.”
Finally, Wylie says she wants to teach her students not to box themselves based on the expectations of others.
“Make your own box. What I’m learning as an adult is to change the 101 things I’m interested in into the perfect job, ”says Wiley. “If I let other people explain me, I’m not where I am. As teachers we must remember that. ”