Culturally Relevant Science: Incorporating Visualizations and Home Culture in an Invention-oriented Middle School Science Curriculum | MIT J-WEL

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Culturally Relevant Science: Incorporating Visualizations and Home Culture in an Invention-oriented Middle School Science Curriculum

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This study examines the benefits of a middle school “invention” curriculum—an inquiry and project-based approach to teaching science that gives students opportunities to learn ways of thinking like inventors. In this article, we focus on modifications made to this curriculum to make it more accessible to English language learners (ELLs). Visualizations, visualized formulae, and science literacy activities were added to help ELLs access the subject matter more effectively. “HomeFun” activities were added to provide opportunities for students to connect knowledge from their home cultures to key aspects of the curriculum. The article reports findings from our research surrounding students’ experiences with the ELL-modified invention curriculum. We used a case study method, gathering data in two classrooms from two different middle schools in the northeastern U.S. Data included classroom observations, interviews, journals, and artifacts. We analyzed the data inductively. We also analyzed five focal students’ HomeFun assignments in detail. We found that the focal children — all children of immigrants — used positive statements when describing their experiences with the modified invention science curriculum and reported that it helped them work through the text and make personal connections to the science subject matter. Students also reported that the visualizations, the science literacy, and the HomeFun activities helped them learn science and provided connections to their home cultures. We draw conclusions about the benefits of invention-oriented curricula and visualizations for teaching science and the importance of making science culturally relevant. 

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