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Black Pearls: Examining the Science Identity Development of African American Girls in a Culturally Relevant STEM Counterspace


The science community has an extensive history of exclusivity at multiple stages, including the P-20 education and professional levels. African American girls remain an underrepresented population within the STEM-fields despite their demonstrated interest and aptitude in science. Within the STEM-circuit, African American girls who once showed interest and promise in STEM, are pushed out due to negative experiences within science spaces where many are marginalized and their interests are suppressed. Critical science education scholars have called for culturally relevant pedagogical practices that honor the cultures and experiences of students of color (Emdin, 2010) and science education scholars have led the charge to examine the experiences and identity development of girls of color in science (Calabrese Barton, et al. 2012; Hanson, 2009).

This study builds on preexisting work by centering its focus on the science identity development of African American girls within a culturally relevant science counterspace. To challenge the dominant discourse concerning their science education experiences, their identity development is analyzed through a critical race, Black feminist theoretical lens. Through a multiple qualitative methods design, this project illuminates the identity development of African American girls within the counterspace by utilizing a three-dimensional model that examines their competence, performance, and recognition in science (Carlone & Johnson, 2007). The culturally relevant curriculum employed within the counterspace allowed participants to learn through their interests and build critical consciousness through engaging in meaningful dialogue concerning the role of race and gender on the underrepresentation of African American women in STEM.

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