Tackling Poverty with STEMscopes™ Texas

Posted by Science Explored on December 10, 2012

Recently, the Commissioner of Education convened with twenty-three high performing districts across Texas to discuss the future of education.  15 of the 23, or 65%, of the selected districts were users of STEMscopes™.  You can imagine our ear-to-ear grins as we heard the news!  Still, education in the lone star state has a ways to go and though the consortium has four pivotal areas of discussion (digital learning, learning standards, variety of assessments, and community interaction), poverty is not one of them. 

The effects of poverty are profound on learning.  Students living below the poverty line often endure hardship from a lack of early childhood stimulation, stunted social skills, and a feeling of apathy towards formal education.  It goes without saying that this is unfair to the child and a serious challenge for his or her teacher.  


How can a teacher mitigate or even erase the ill effects of poverty on their student?  Of course, it’s essential to begin by believing that the student is capable and ultimately desires a successful future, but what concrete, actionable steps are there to use in class tomorrow?

Sense of Success:  students can prove knowledge in a huge number of ways; common assessments can sometimes stymie a student’s confidence and ability to demonstrate content mastery.  I know it but I wish I could show you the way I know it. If possible, allow students to take an assessment that is relevant to their interests and skills such as a kinesthetic project, an oral exam, or a game-based one.   STEMscopes 2.0 will feature a new modality of assessments wherein students demonstrate their knowledge by completing an interactive simulation. 

Tracking Success:  it’s hard to be invested in a workout plan long-term when you begin to second-guess how far you’ve come.  Do I really look that much better than I use to?   Students mirror our adult selves.  Sure, you can hand them grade report print outs, but it’s a lot more meaningful when they track themselves and do so visually.  Furthermore, tracking done in pencil gives students a sense that their grade is not set in stone; rather, that their first attempt can be improved when they choose to re-demonstrate their knowledge.  We have a few trackers available for you to use as a starting point here

Holistic Learning:  the notion that learning is a set of discreet skills and knowledge goes against what we know as adults.  Learning is a continuum that has only a beginning in ignorance and no horizon.  Students, especially disenfranchised poverty-stricken students, can be turned off by a list of things they have to learn.  How does erosion have anything to do with painting or fractions?  Who decided I had to learn all this?  By merging different parts of curriculum and cross-curricular teaching, not only do you deliver content faster but also more meaningfully.  Instead of isolated camps of knowledge, students develop a network of them and begin to make their own connections between what they learn.  The result:  more creativity, more investment, and an improved ability to show what they know.  STEMscopes™ was built with the holistic classroom in mind – from art, music and math to our upcoming engineering components, we want to address students in as many was as possible.

By no means are these suggestions exhaustive.  Teaching impoverished students is a challenge and a noble one at that.  It is likely to become a bigger issue in the future before a solution to the root cause is found.  Regardless, just because poverty is an issue in the classroom doesn’t mean it has to become a lifelong pattern for our students.

We would love to hear what works in your classroom experience for low SES students and incorporate that into STEMscopes™ for all users.