GCC 3026


Stepping Into the Gap: Understanding the Challenges of Supporting Diversity in STEM

The goals of this class are (1) to understand the cognitive, social and emotional factors that have led to the underrepresentation of many groups in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and (2) understand what each citizen in a science community must do to push back against this trend. In addition to studying research on the psychology of learning and diversity, we will survey literature about scientific communication and learn about the impact of disparities in educational opportunities.

This class builds on a partnership between the University of Minnesota and a local middle school. The overarching goal is to support students from groups typically underrepresented in science as they participate in an advanced science learning opportunity:  the science fair. Our engagement with the school science fair process should result in an experience that motivates future participation in STEM opportunities. 

There are two phases to the class. First, we prepare to lead the program. September readings, discussions, and weekly reflection assignments focus on what is known about creating inclusive and supportive learning environments. Then, for October, November, and December, the class meets at a local middle school (easily accessible by public transportation). University students take turns leading science demos, stage a science fair so the middle school students have a chance to play judge, and then partner with the middle school students as they invent, execute and present their own science fair projects.

Class participants will learn about theories and research that explains the crisis being experienced across America and in particular, in the Twin Cities. They will design evidence-based curriculum materials to address key issues and have hands-on experiences as peer mentor-teachers. Overall, this class will provide experiences that are likely to be transformative in relation to students' views of education, opportunity, and the power of their involvement.


Student Stories

Representation and Resources for Science Fair Students

Amanda Polanski
[February 2019] Amanda Polanski shares her journey of helping three middle schoolers gear up for the science fair! Learn more about her experience in GCC 3026 as she addresses the lack of support and diversity in STEM.

Course Details

Meeting Time: Fall 2019, Tuesdays & Thursdays from 3:45-5:00 p.m.

Location: East Bank

Liberal Education Theme: Diversity & Social Justice in the U.S.

Topics: Under-representation in STEM, hands-on peer mentorship

Credits: 3

Prerequisites: Must be a sophomore, junior, senior, or graduate student

Professors: Keisha Varma and Cheryl Olman