Moments learned from #HipHopSTEM

On Friday March 27 I was part of HipHopSTEM: a HipHop Education STEMposium. The day was composed of workshops for the students and teachers, a keynote by Dr. Chris Emdin, and a motivational/talent HipHop show.

I co-facilitated a workshop with Mustefa Jo’shen.

Our workshop’s purpose was to empower students through their favourite music. We asked students reflect on a song they really identify with, something that speaks to them, inspires them, makes them dream of the future. The workshop concentrated on helping the students identify goals, long and short, in relation to the songs they chose. The key for us was for students to analyze why their goal was really important. This part, the critical thinking, inquiry and reflection done by the students almost always related the purpose to the reason why their chosen song resonates. This is because

Our minds speak louder than words about our choices

The connections that students make to their areas of interest, their music, their culture, their life goals, are all intertwined. As teachers, it’s important to tap into students’ passions, interests, and culture in order to really understand who they are, what their hopes and dreams are, and what they want to do in life. This is the only way we’ll be able to serve them.

Here are some of the moments where I learned a lot at HipHopSTEM:

Moment #1: Students of colour identify with real struggle.

We had asked them to tell us “why” they wanted to achieve the goal they set out for themselves. All students were sharing their goals, and one student said:

“my goal is to grow up and be successful to support my family. Why? Because struggle is real” ~ a grade 10 student.

Students relate to lyrics in songs about hardship, struggle, resistance, lack of support and much much more. Because to these kids, they’re not just listening to music, this music speaks of who they are and where they come from, their family’s struggle and constant hustle, their identities, their culture. To some students, music is their life to give them hope to dream for a better future. Predominately this relates to students of colour. Students of colour are often marginalized by the education system; their parents marginalized by the government system.

Moment #2: Students are geniuses

They really are.

Me to student: What is your goal?

Student: I want to be a psychiatrist so I can help people.

Me: That’s a great a goal, but why a psychiatrist?

Student: Getting paid a lot of money is important to me, but I want to help people be happy. Because money doesn’t buy happiness.

Many of these students live in low-income households, and for many of them being successful is the driver to improve their socio-economic status. However, these students also understand that money, when achieved, doesn’t buy happiness. So many of the students said that pursuing something you enjoy, and surrounding yourself with positive people will lead to happiness.

Moment #3: “You can be a science teacher right now” ~ Chris Emdin.

Dr. Christopher Emdin was the keynote that day after our workshop at 11 am.

Here is my Periscope video of his introduction before the start of his keynote:

He was one of the most inspiring, thought provoking and realest speakers I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. He truly put his all into sharing his experience, and being a strong motivator for students. His keynote really hit home and inspired students with his story and experience as a black male with all social, cultural and educational forces going against him. He also shared great information about Thomas Fuller and Harriet Tubman and how their history in STEM is often dismissed. This is important because he was talking about systemic racism to students, a hardly touched upon topic but many students were already aware of its implications.

During the Q&A a student asks: “How long does it take for someone to become a science teacher?”

Dr. Emdin: “There is two answers to this question, the first is you have to finish school, get good grades, experience and after several years, one can call themselves a science teacher. But you can be a science teacher RIGHT NOW, you can go on the internet, read a few books and gather a few friends and teach them what you learned. You will be a science teacher.”

I will leave you with that last idea because it really spoke to me and many others.

Some tweet and video highlights:

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”>

Dropping some beats after lunch at #hiphopstem

— Rusul رسل (@RusulAlrubail) March 27, 2015

Students making their own beats:

Spoken Word:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s