Often, students who are not of the majority population may not feel as connected to the content as those who are. This "Making Cultural Content Connections" activity is a strategy used to help bridge the gap between students and the content. Students will have an opportunity to research someone that is more culturally similar to them within a particular content area or field of study. This strategy will help students feel a sense of connectedness with, and have an improved perception of personal efficacy as related to, the content area.
Ask students to draw the first image of the person they see when they hear the word “scientist," and have them write a brief explanation as to why they drew the person they drew.
Most students will draw an elderly man, white in appearance, akin to Einstein or Newton.
While students are drawing, draw yourself as a scientist, but do not show the students your finished product until they have completed theirs.
Ask several students to share their drawings and explanations.
Share your drawing of a scientist (the drawing of yourself) and explain that we are all scientists. Then explain that though most of the scientists we study throughout the school year appear to be white, there are scientists of all races and ethnicities, and we all learn about the world around us using scientific methods.
Introduce the Making Cultural Content Connections activity using the “Making Cultural Connections Project Handout” included in the resource section below.
Review the different branches of sciences with the students.
Allow students to decide branches of science in which they are most interested, as they will research scientists within one of those branches of science.
Have students collect information about the chosen scientists using one of the resources linked below, or via their own online research.
Use the collected information to write a biography about the chosen scientist.
Use this strategy during the first month of the school year or when starting a new unit or discipline within science to help develop a cultural connection to the content for students.
This strategy is written for middle school science, but it can be used in any content area at any grade level, provided that the appropriate supports are included. For example, in:
ELA: Students can research different types of writers studied in class such as poets, journalists, novelists, graphic novelists, etc.
Math: Students can research applied mathematicians, pure mathematicians, numerical analysts, theoretical physicists, statisticians, etc.
Social Studies: Students can study anthropologists, sociologists, anthropologists, historians, etc.