This week’s blog post is by our graduate assistant Waleska Do Valle Santos!
Teaching underserved communities has always been important to me. The fact that the STEM Center prioritizes science education in low income communities made me interested in attending graduate school at SIUE and working on a research project with the STEM Center. I started teaching underprivileged students when I was an undergraduate student. I led a project at the intersection between informal education and urban gardening in a favela in São Paulo, Brazil. Favela is a Portuguese word to describe impoverished communities in Brazil. They are communities that are poorly constructed and have limited resources compared to other Brazilian neighborhoods. I learned that informal science education can teach students how to identify issues in society and take actions to address these problems.
Developing lesson plans to teach students about science is gratifying because it can positively influence students’ lives. Planning the lessons requires creating interesting activities to keep students engaged all the time. It is also essential that instructors and staff are connected to the community they work with. My team is always motivated to learn more about our students and where they live. We have meetings before and after each lesson and are always working to improve our activities and offering the best we can for these students.
I specifically am involved in an after-school program focused on environmental health. Our goal is to teach our students the meaning of the environment and the importance of health environments. In addition, we want our students to learn what makes an environment healthy or unhealthy and how this may impact the health of people. Living in an unhealthy environment can lead to health complications, so we want students to understand the different types of pollution in the environment, such as soil, air, and noise pollution. Our team also cares about encouraging students to pursue careers in science. We introduce the students to what scientists do in their jobs. Students get hands-on experience using scientific instruments and collecting data in the activities.
The world is witnessing the importance of scientists in the society during the COVID-19 pandemic. Scientists have an imperative role because they help people understand complicated issues, such as why people get sick, how nature works, and how to combat pollution. They protect our health and the health of the environment. At the STEM Center, we recognize this and are motivated to continue serving our students. During this time of social distancing, we have been preparing future lesson plans for the students and the community. We are also having weekly online meetings to discuss how we can engage our students during this time. We believe in the power of education and it is what inspires us to keep working hard to serve our students and community.