Wildfires Spark Interest in STEM for South Seattle Students
The Curiosity Lab at African Community Housing and Development (ACHD) invites students to lead the way on their own STEM learning journey.
By Marisa Allison, African Community Housing and Development
While the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted learning for millions of students, large families in South King County’s African Diaspora immigrant and refugee communities faced exceptional challenges.
Led by visionary women of color, ACHD is a non-profit organization that provides holistic, complete, and culturally-responsive support for African Diaspora immigrants in South Seattle and South King County. At ACHD, we worked to meet our community’s needs throughout the pandemic shutdown.
We knew that with five to seven children to look after, caregivers in our community (who often doubled as essential workers) would struggle to support their children’s remote education. Their internet at home often dropped in the middle of class, especially given most families had multiple students in online classes at the same time, and access to computers was limited. Without consistent engagement in instruction and communication with peers, many students fell behind.
Back to School and Back to Basics
When in-person instruction resumed, educators at ACHD knew they had their work cut out for them. Students who began the pandemic with a fourth grade understanding of science were now starting middle school. Through discussions with families, staff identified a need to go back to basics and reignite student interest in science.
In fall of 2021, ACHD community partner foundry10 tailor-made and delivered a series of professional development trainings to ACHD educators. Designed to build knowledge and bolster confidence to deliver a brand new STEM program, these trainings covered topics such as the Basics of STEM Facilitation, Designing Equitable STEM Programming, and Creating Career Connections in STEM.
Science Students Lead the Way
In March 2022, ACHD launched their Curiosity Lab program with funding from foundry10. Curiosity Lab featured hands-on experiments, exciting field trips, and engaging guest speakers of color.
In the updated program, which began in September 2022, Curiosity Lab students are leading the way in their own educational journey by selecting their topic of research as a group. Intrigued by the summer forest fires and lingering smoke, this semester’s Curiosity Lab students decided to study wildfires and their impact on the environment.
“I really love how Abby and her team have identified a need that youth have and developed a program to address those needs,” said Tania Dearden, foundry10 Education Programs Manager. “That sort of learning and application is the type of work that foundry10 loves.”
From Didactic Teaching to Meaningful Mentorship
Students now have the opportunity to practice science as it is done by researchers, resulting in a fundamental change in science education programming from didactic teaching to mentorship coupled with student-driven research.
Mentors and speakers for Curiosity Lab include scientists from the United States Forest Service, Puget Sound Clean Energy Institute, Seattle Children’s Hospital, and the University of Washington.
To learn more about programs and services at ACHD and contribute to their work, visit their website.
If you are interested in receiving custom-made STEM PD from foundry10, please reach out to Tania Dearden and Lindsey Childers at STEM@foundry10.org.