Breaking barriers in the classroom by teaching about LGBTQ+ innovators in STEM

Breaking barriers: Celebrating LGBTQ+ innovators in STEM

Happy Summer, Superheroes! June is Pride Month, and what better time to delve into the compelling fusion of the LGBTQ+ community and the fascinating field of STEM. From Alan Turing, the brilliant codebreaker who unlocked the secrets of artificial intelligence, to Sally Ride, the first openly LGBTQ+ astronaut, these trailblazers and their unshakeable spirit remind us of the remarkable triumphs that emerge when authenticity and innovation intertwine. When we honor the stories, achievements and challenges faced by LGBTQ+ trailblazers in STEM, we foster classroom environments where diversity, inclusivity and acceptance thrive.

Here are three engaging classroom activities that honor and celebrate LGBTQ+ innovators in STEM.

Showcase LGBTQ+ STEM innovators with biography posters

Launch your students into a collaborative journey to uncover the groundbreaking contributions and captivating stories of LGBTQ+ scientists, and then encourage meaningful discussion of their achievements, struggles and the impact they made in their respective fields. This exploration can help break down stereotypes and create a supportive environment for LGBTQ+ students interested in STEM careers.

By sharing positive representations of LGBTQ+ individuals, we can empower our students to develop a stronger sense of self-acceptance, self-worth and confidence in their abilities. Encourage your students to create captivating biography posters like these featuring LGBTQ+ innovators in STEM using information gathered during discussions. These posters will serve as powerful tools to increase visibility and representation within your classroom.

Foster connections through conversations with local professionals

Collaborate with local LGBTQ+ organizations like GLSEN-Arizona and invite professionals to share their experiences and insights with your students. This can be an open forum where students can ask questions, seek advice and engage in meaningful conversations about the experiences of LGBTQ+ professionals. Such interactions can provide students with valuable career guidance and help them appreciate the contributions of LGBTQ+ individuals in STEM.

Incorporate inclusive and affirming curriculum

Embarking on the journey of creating LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculum can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re not sure where to start. But fear not! Organizations like the ones below are treasure troves of tools and knowledge to create safe and welcoming spaces.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has been at the forefront of advocating for LGBTQ+ rights and promoting inclusive classrooms. Their resources provide educators with valuable guidance and support in creating safe, affirming and inclusive learning environments for all students.

The Arizona Education Association (AEA) is a strong advocate for inclusive classrooms and promoting diversity in education. They provide valuable resources and professional development opportunities for educators to enhance their understanding of inclusivity and implement inclusive practices.

Lastly, the National Education Association (NEA) has got you covered with an abundance of engaging resources that will ignite your creativity and empower you to build an inclusive learning environment.

These engaging ideas help to celebrate the contributions of LGBTQ+ innovators and make it possible to take powerful steps to promote inclusivity and visibility in the classroom.

Let’s continue to celebrate diversity, challenge stereotypes and pave the way for a future where authenticity and innovation intertwine without barriers.

What methods do you recommend for promoting inclusiveness and diversity in the classroom? Let us know on social media at @ArizonaEducator on Twitter or Arizona PBS KIDS on Facebook.


About the author

Ashley Burkart is a Senior STEM Teacher at Bioscience High School in Phoenix. STEM research was her first passion as she holds a Masters in Biomedical Science from Midwestern University. When she isn’t teaching tomorrow’s leaders, she is either hanging out with her dogs, Raven and Bailey, or hiking the beautiful mountains of Arizona. 

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