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Diversity in STEM

Creating More Inclusive Learning Environments

Educators and policymakers agree that to help children grow as students and individuals, it’s essential they feel safe and supported. To achieve this, cultivating an inclusive classroom climate is essential.

According to the Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, an inclusive classroom environment is one where “all students feel supported intellectually and academically, and are extended a sense of belonging in the classroom regardless of identity, learning preferences or education.”

Creating these types of learning environments has always been important. But following the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many schools were forced to close and implement remote learning strategies, now more than ever before, children need to be engaged in collaboration and social-emotional learning.

As U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy stated in a General’s Advisory issued in December 2021, “The COVID-19 pandemic further altered [children’s] experiences at home, school, and in the community, and the effect on their mental health has been devastating. The future wellbeing of our country depends on how we support and invest in the next generation.”

To help create the type of inclusive learning environments where students feel safe and supported, we invite you to try the following strategies:


1. Empower Students Using Ground Rules

Healthy and effective learning environments are ones where students feel like they have a voice and that their contributions are respected. To ensure all students have a chance to express themselves and know their opinions are respected, consider creating a list of ground rules that are prominently displayed in the classroom. Examples of rules that can help create a safe and collaborative learning environment include:

  • Listen when someone else is talking
  • Raise your hand when you want to speak
  • Respect the personal space of others
  • Always do your best to be kind
  • Share with your classmates and friends
  • Respect the ideas of others, even if you do not agree

Consider engaging in a classroom activity where students can take an active role in helping develop these rules. Doing so will give students a vested interest in making sure these guidelines are followed.


2. Celebrate Diversity Through Positivity

Diversity is found in all classrooms. This can include both visible and invisible forms of diversity, including differences in race, gender, learning style, socioeconomic background and ability.

While some classrooms are more diverse than others, within all learning environments, it is essential to guide children and encourage them to celebrate what makes them special and unique. Each day, take time to give your students positive encouragement about their abilities, ideas and identities. Examples can include:

  • “I really loved the creative idea you shared with the class today.”
  • “That’s a really cool outfit you have on!”
  • “You’re doing great work – keep it up!”


3. Introduce Examples of Diversity

When possible, it’s important to introduce your class to figures and role models who are diverse and run counter to uninformed stereotypes. For example, as we all work to improve the levels of diversity within STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, it’s important to introduce children to STEM professionals who represent backgrounds that have been historically underrepresented in these fields.

To aid in this, check out our National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) Inductees and consider incorporating them into your lesson plans. You can learn more about these incredible individuals by reading our blog.


Find More Ways to Create an Inclusive Learning Environment

For additional tips and techniques to nurture and support an inclusive learning environment, we invite you to visit our blog.

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