Are Baltimore schools starting to pay attention to student
leadership and ideas?
Schools often talk about preparing students for citizenship, but rarely offer students a voice or a seat at the table on issues that affect them.
But if the student leadership conference at Johns Hopkins University is any indication, Dr. Santelises, the CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools, is ready to for students to take a larger role in improving their schools. Urging students to speak up about problems in their schools and to be problem solvers, Santelises casts her vote for our students and our future.
And these students, who collaborated thoughtfully and compassionately throughout the day, are ready to step up, speak up, and help solve problems at their schools.
Facilitators pace the front of the room, poking their hands at graphs projected on the board. Huddled around workbench tables, a mix of school officials, college professors and informal educators stare between the board and the colorful pie charts, glowing like a dessert menu on their computer screens.
Let’s call it a STEM learning project for educators.
How to create a thriving ecosystem for STEM learning in Baltimore.
This is a room of very smart people, working hard to create STEM learning opportunities in Baltimore. This is a good effort. But even with great cooks, it’s tough to make a great chocolate cake without chocolate.
So where are the business leaders, the medical and innovation companies, the construction trades and government agencies?
And where are the kids and their parents?
Sure, this is a daytime event, so kids are in school, parents at work, but when and where do they have a turn to talk about the type of STEM education that they want in their communities?
One of the best points at the workshop is that STEM learning should be available to everyone. Think of it as a thousand points of learning.
But in at least one group, “equitable” was used to describe targeting STEM opportunities to those without resources.
The digital divide is big in Baltimore with students using state of the art computers and technology while other students may have to write and research their papers at home on their cell phones. In a computer coding program some students needed to be paid to learn computer coding or they would have to take a part time job to pay bills instead.
But in our attempt to provide equitable STEM education, will we create programs that are as divided by race, income and address as the rest of Baltimore?
STEM learning should be a banquet where we share the bounty of learning together.
We have an opportunity to start programs which include students, parents, citizens and tourists based simply on their curiosity and willingness to learn. We can create a culture of learning which is pervasive and inclusive throughout Baltimore.
The question shouldn’t be whether we improve STEM education to students in poverty or whether we create STEM opportunities for everyone. It is how soon and well we can do both.
Teachers, if you are looking for a great STEM learning project which could help students understand health, climate change, politics and power, look to our polluted skies.
Will Maryland choose to reduce greenhouse gases and pollutants to improve the health of our citizens and reduce the harm from global warming? Or will we walk away from these reductions to fight a perceived threat of cheaper power production in neighboring states?
This is an open question.
The state set a ambitious goal in April for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but the path for creating those reductions is not clear.
When Governor Hogan began his administration, he refused to publish air quality regulations which would have required older, highly polluting coal fired power plants to reduce their emissions or close. Now, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is considering whether Maryland will leave the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to reduce a perceived power cost advantage of neighboring states. The argument is that if neighboring states can produce power more cheaply by polluting heavily, then Maryland would suffer from the pollution without profiting from the generation.
This project enables students to learn about the health and environmental costs of our dependence on fossil fuels and to consider which power sources are the most socially, economically and environmentally viable.
In the following six video clips, advocacy groups, the Secretary of the MDE and citizens testify in support of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and in support of Maryland remaining in the multi-state cap and trade program to help reduce dependence on fossil fuels. No one testified in favor of leaving RGGI, but Ben Grumbles, the Secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment discussed the possibility of the state withdrawing from the agreement.
What are the arguments which your students find most persuasive? Should Maryland consider the health and environmental costs of pollution when it calculates the price of energy?
What path would they suggest for the future of Maryland?
You can find additional materials in the resource section or email me at email@example.com to create a project fitted to your class.
David Smedick , Maryland Beyond Coal Representative, testifies that polling showed that a vast majority of Marylanders are in favor of RGGI and want Maryland to continue to cut greenhouse gas emissions.