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Title: Becoming Somebody in STEM: Developing a cultural of criticality in the space between person and history
Autumn, a young white woman growing up in multi-generational poverty in an economically challenged midwestern city, has authored a STEM-empowered life against the dominant sociohistorical narrative in American society. She has attended public schools that served significant populations living in high poverty – overcrowded classrooms, high teacher turnovers, out-of-field teaching, and limited STEM resources. Yet, she has authored herself into STEM despite these mitigating circumstances. Autumn is currently a high school senior with aspirations to become an engineer or a hairdresser working in an eco-salon. She spends part of her time after school in a makerspace housed in her local community center, building things to solve other people’s problems. She reminds us that her out-of-school efforts to participate in STEM exist worlds away from schooling. However, she takes the optimistic view that if she could tell teachers about her out-of-school STEM experiences, her teachers might be better able to help her and her peers serve the interests and needs of her community, as well as see Autumn’s potential in STEM. Now a rising 12th grader, we have followed Autumn since 5th grade through school and afterschool. As she grew older, she became more interested in helping us to document and more » tell her story. She is an author on this paper. Also during this time, Autumn has shifted from wanting to be a hair designer (5th grade) to wanting to own a “green” (environmentally friendly) hair salon (8th grade), to considering engineering as a possible career (10th grade). Autumn has struggled with being labeled “a girl in the background” and someone whom her mother described in 7th grade as “if she would just get Ds, I would be happy.” However, over the past 6 years, Autumn has engaged in an ever-increasing range of STEM-rich actions and relationships, including building a Little Free STEM Library, leading workshops on energy efficiency, making educational movies for her community to teach about green energy, and writing for her afterschool STEM club blog. We are interested in Autumn’s engagement with others in these activities over time and space, and how they shape her own and her community’s engagement in STEM. The overarching question that guides this manuscript is: What are the micro-dynamics that produce and challenge inequalities in Fall’s becoming in STEM, as a white girl, growing up in multi-generational poverty in a Midwestern city. Using Holland & Lave’s (2009) two forms of history –“history in person” and “history in institutionalized struggles”–we examined several pivotal events, and the micro-dynamics at play, identified by Autumn with respect to becoming in STEM. We sought to make sense of the ways in which Autumn’s STEM experiences were carried out in local practice but also enacted against the broader background of cultural/historical narratives. In this process we traced Autumn’s core commitments-in-practice in STEM & Community. We also examined how these core commitments-in-practice led, at times, to conflict and new forms of “contentious local practice” (LCP) as these commitments-in-practice pushed back against particular local, historical and sociocultural contexts. « less
Authors:
Award ID(s):
1647033
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10084522
Journal Name:
American Education Research Association
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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