Conference collaborates on Generative Justice

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The Generative Justice conference hosted by GK12 facilitated excitement and investment in the movement for generative justice! Thanks to all who attended, and especially to the conference speakers.

Links to conference presentations

Keynote by Alondra Nelson

Generative Justice wiki page

Related articles:

Reflecting on some Initial Impressions

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When the other fellows and I began the GK-12 program last autumn, we met up outside our regular scheduled times ostensibly to talk about a group project that we could all play a role in, bringing our various strengths and disciplinary specialties to bear on some larger goal. We did eventually do that, on that fine September afternoon, before we could get to that kind of conversation, we still needed to get to know one another first. Having a background in improvisational comedy, I suggested we play a game.

Friends share stuff, right? Personal stuff, fears, hopes, dreams, and so on. So I suggested to the assembled crew that we do just that — anonymously. So, in regards to our upcoming assignment to teach at Hackett Middle School in Albany (HMS), NY, each person wrote one fear and one hope down on a piece of paper, tore them into strips, and put them in the middle. Then we went around, taking turns pulling paper out of the middle and reading them aloud. Needless to say, it was a lot of fun, and we only got through 2 or 3 of them before the meeting was up.

It turns out that I saved all these slips of paper and have decided to share them here. It would be fun to see what’s changed since — but that will have to wait until next fall!

What is your biggest concern about working at HMS?

  • “I’m nervous about working with the middle-schoolers: particularly about being able to keep them engaged and interested in the lesson.”
  • “I am terrified of them in general. Kids at that age can be cruel.”
  • “What happens if the lesson goes downhill? (If the lesson is too complicated?)”
  • “Not being able to convey interesting scientific concepts in a fun way that captures their attention. Also middle schoolers/kids — they kinda just scare me.”
  • “The CSDTs are a bit intimidating. I hope to expand my capabilities with them but I don’t exactly know where to start.”
  • “I’m worried about remembering how to do the skills you learn in middle school. Case in point: I can do integrals and derivations but I can’t remember simple math…”
  • “It might be difficult to make a lasting or meaningful contribution if we are too diverse, or plunge into fields we’re unfamiliar with.”

What are you excited about??

  • “I’m excited about working with middle school students in a social justice / STEM frame.”
  • “I’m excited about getting students interested in science and math. I hope to be a positive  impact. Hopefully I can influence them to pursue their college dreams.”
  • “Teaching new concepts and technology and hopefully getting minds to think about science and technology in a different and exciting way than they are used to.”
  • “I’m excited to show kids how programming orks and use that as a way to enhance their problem solving skills.”
  • “I’m excited about working on a project that can help people become engaged in science.”
  • “I’m eager to test hypotheses about concept formation in children, and to work on a software development project.”
  • “Seeing the progress from the beginning of the year compared to the end.”

I like that the last concern leaves open the question of “Whose progress?” Certainly the middle schoolers are included, but might not the GK-12 fellows themselves also be here implied?

Spring Semester Recap

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This semester I was working in Ms Shannon Stevenson’s 8th grade Science classroom again, much to my delight. I began the semester by spending Tuesdays in the classroom, like last semester. I’d hoped to build a relationship with the students before attempting to teach them anything. By February I felt like I’d make the kind of connections I was looking for and put together a course of study featuring the CSDTs. Then I coordinated with my classroom teacher to set up an after school program. While I initially thought in-class lessons might be easiest for everyone, the general consensus amongst the GK-12 fellows was for after school. After all, the students are generally quite busy each school day with any number of projects, and furthermore, only interested students would attend an after school problem, theoretically lessening the discipline issues that quite frequently arise during the school day.

I though hip-hop music might be a good way to hook the kids’ attention and ground the power of the CSDT software suite. As the presentation I showed all the kids make clear, the GK-12 project has developed software directly relevant to 3 out of 4 of the Elements of Hip-Hop. I thought maybe I could embed the Prezi here but it doesn’t seem to work. I’ll figure it out!

After giving a small talk and presentation at the beginning of each class one cold February day, I opened the first “Science Club” to a fair success: 5 kids showed up! From February to April we had regular Science Club on Tuesday afternoons, with attendance averaging about 5, peaking at 8, and on the rare occasion dropping as low as 1 or 2. I introduced the students to the Rhythm Wheels, Cornrow Curves, and Skateboarder, and in my next post I’ll discuss my observations of the students’ varied interactions with the software, each other, the classroom teacher, and myself.