Thursday, April 20, 2017

Black boys and astrophysics

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Over the last couple of years, I've been working with Digital East St. Louis -- a National Science Foundation-funded project designed to increase interest in STEM among African American students. The project is directed by the STEM Center at SIUE.

Our Language Arts and Leadership conference is rooted in the arts and humanities. However, given my experiences working with Digital East St. Louis, I reached out to Matt Johnson, Instructional Design and Curriculum Specialist for the STEM Center, to provide suggestions on topics related to science that we might include in one of our sessions. We decided to concentrate on astrophysics. Matt provided a short overview, which I read and recorded. I added instrumentals by music producer Just Blaze, primarily because he's a self-described "tech geek." We also included a selection of images that corresponded to the topics that Matt discussed such as the Big Bang Theory, the Hubble Space Telescope, and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

The students listened to the audio and viewed the images on our tablets. They then responded to questions about what information they found most interesting concerning astrophysics. Here's a sample of their responses:
• I like the idea that they have telescopes that can explore and see outer space beyond our stars to what may be or what have been other galaxies and universes.

• I was most interested in the portion conceiving the Big Bang theory and the image that correlated with it because I find the entire concept of universal expansion an interesting topic.

• The information which is important to me is the Hubble Telescope and the big bang because I love technology and how the world evolved.

• What interested me most was the time it takes light to travel throughout the galaxy.

• The information about the telescope and how it was built were most interesting to me because of how they came along and made it.

• Space itself shows the vast realm of things we as humans do not know. “The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.” This kind of gives new hope in the fact that something new always awaits me, and that there are never-ending possibilities that can occur in life.

The Language Arts and Leadership Conference, 2017 

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