Friday, October 31, 2014

STEM Education, Love and Hospitality

A Lesson from GLAM

This was the best camp I went to because I feel loved and welcomed here instead of a regular kid who joins a camp. I am glad that I was able to be in this camp because there are no funny acting teachers. Like what I mean is ...everybody is treated the same.

~ African American female STEM camp participant

The quote above is from a participant in my summer STEM camp that I implement in partnership with Guidance, Life-Skills, and Mentoring (GLAM). GLAM is a program for young ladies of African American descent. During this camp, providing a loving and hospitable environment was not optional but mandatory, everyday. A loving and hospitable environment made engaging with mathematics and science concepts easy.  The ladies, even those who did not enjoy mathematics and/or science, were always willing to work.  They were excited about learning!!!

As mathematics and science educators, we sometimes proclaim that we teach mathematics (or science), forgetting that we really teach students. However, we should never forget the students we teach and the power of love and hospitality.  We all know how great it feels to walk in someone’s home for the first time and be treated like we have lived there for years. We understand how great it feels to walk into an establishment and receive wonderful customer service.  We also know how it feels to walk into a home and feel unwelcome or walk into an establishment to only be followed or ignored. These feelings often lead us to say, “I will never come here again”.  So now lets replace the word home and establishment with learning spaces or classrooms.  

How do we expect our kids to learn if they are in environments that are not loving and hospitable? Our kids deciding to “never come here (classroom/learning spaces) again” can have a detrimental impact on their lives. We can integrate engaging, relevant, and challenging learning activities in classrooms but if the environment is not loving and hospitable we cannot expect kids to show up either physically or mentally.

Crystal Hill Morton, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education at the Indiana University School of Education in Indianapolis and North Central Region Representative for Benjamin Banneker Association. She is also a member of the (ES)2 Research Program, which works to advance STEM curricula that position people of African descent to improve their current social condition. To learn more about the (ES)2 Research Program visit:

Friday, October 10, 2014

Creating Children's Books for African American Learners

(ES)Researchers Filling a Void

Each year the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) at the University of Wisconsin, Madison gathers statistics on the number of children's books published by and for people of color. For the past 30 years, the numbers have been exceptionally small. For example in 2013, CCBC received 3,200 children's books. Of these only 93 (about 2.9%) featured African or African American people. An even smaller number, 63 (about 2.1%) were by African or African American authors. 

The above graph shows five years of data from the Cooperative Children's Book Center on the total number of children's book received and reviewed by the center and the number of those books that feature African Americans. A more complete report of this data can be found here
Members of the (ES)Research Program have been working to develop a curriculum unit on Food Origins aimed at meeting the STEM learning needs of African children. As part of this curriculum we are also developing leveled readers. The first series, Kayla's First Chickens, is comprised of four books designed for early readers. The series follows the adventures of Kayla as she (a) visits a farm, (b) raises her own hens, (c) accepts that it is normal to eat chickens, and (d) learns to prepare chicken for food. Both the unit and this series of readers are aimed at helping children to develop better understandings of where our food originates. Kayla's First Chickens - Book One is now available at Book Patch.

In Kayla’s First Chickens - Book One, Kayla expresses interest in learning how to make chicken. In response, Kayla’s father takes her to visit a farm so that she can learn more about chickens. To learn more about this reader visit Book Patch.

Enhancing the Effectiveness of Socially Transformative STEM Education (ES)2 is a research program aimed at advancing STEM education as a vehicle for improving the social condition of African people. To learn more about the (ES)2 Research Program visit: