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Dr. Nettrice Gaskins: Recontextualizing the Makerspace & Culturally Responsive Education


by Susan Klimczak -

At the Fab Learn Conference last weekend, I was struck that Paulo Blickstein set the tone by making a strong argument for maker education to focus on inclusion and equity even suggesting the importance of giving  "an unfair advantage to low income youth."

Here in Boston I am part of the work of the Race, Education and Democracy STEM Network moving forward through the inspiring leadership of Dr. Theresa Perry from Simmons College.  Today, RED STEM held a community event at the South End Technology Center @ Tent City for local parents and teachers called, "Creating MakerSpaces:  Learning from Educators, Artists, Community Organizers, and Researchers."  

There were a number of wonderful speakers, but the one who stood out and dazzled me the most was Dr. Nettrice Gaskins who has the job of establishing a STEAM MakerSpace at a local public high school, the Boston Arts Academy.   I not only think that all of us should be reading and following her blog, but also that we should invite her to speak at the next Fab Learn Conference because she is also a dynamic and infectious communicator! 

Today, Nettrice gave a talk that retold and rooted the history of making and tinkering education in the Black Community.  She was especially effective at arguing that hip hop legends like Grandmaster Flash and J.Dilla were/are extremely talented maker/tinkerer/innovators whose impulse to make and tinker was rooted in their desire to spread knowledge and educate the black community.  And that they should be firmly rooted in any intellectual genealogy of maker education.

Much of her talk came from a really rockin' blogpost that I encourage folks to read. . .

Nettrice suggests that we put the characteristics of Culturally Responsive Education (CRT, Geneva Gay) at the heart of any makerspace : 

  • CRT acknowledges the legitimacy of the cultural heritages of different ethnic groups, both as legacies that affect students’ dispositions, attitudes, and approaches to learning and as worthy content to be taught in the formal curriculum.
  • CRT builds bridges of meaningfulness between home and school experiences as well as between academic abstractions and lived sociocultural realities.
  • CRT uses a wide variety of instructional strategies that are connected to different learning styles.
  • CRT teaches students to know and praise their own and each others’ cultural heritages.
  • CRT incorporates multicultural information, resources, and materials in all the subjects and skills routinely taught in schools 

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