Dean's Lecture Series: Dr. Megan Bang
Reimagining Field Based Science Education Towards Cultivating Just, Thriving, and Sustainable Worlds
Megan Bang (Ojibwe and Italian descent) is a Professor of the Learning Sciences and Psychology at Northwestern University and is currently serving as the Senior Vice President at the Spencer Foundation. Dr. Bang studies dynamics of culture, learning, and development with a focus on the complexities of navigating multiple meaning systems in creating and implementing more effective and just learning environments. She focuses on dimensions of reasoning and decision-making about complex socio-ecological systems, such as the role of perspective taking, temporal and spatial scales, and relational construals and their intersections with culture, identity, power, and historicity. She conducts research in schools, informal learning environments, and everyday community contexts with people and places across the life course and often utilizes robust participatory methods with communities. Dr. Bang is a member of the National Academy of Education. She also currently serves on the Board of Science Education at the National Academy of Sciences, and NSF’s Education and Human Resources Advisory Committee and NSF’s Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education.
The complex intertwining of human systems and natural systems are increasingly visible as societies are grappling with profound issues like racial justice, public health, and economics, amidst and shaped by rapidly shifting ecological systems and changing climates. Given these realities, what kinds of education do we need for human worlds and natural worlds to be generatively intertwined such that justice and sustainability are achievable? What kinds of knowledge, reasoning, and decision-making do we need to cultivate? What forms of political and ethical sensibilities do we need? And, what do we need to reimagine about human learning and development? In this talk I present two participatory design-based research projects focused on developing models of interdisciplinary field-based science education that are grounded in cultivating socio-ecological systems understandings and that take seriously historically powered dynamics of education and of science. The first project, called Indigenous STEAM is an informal program that serve Indigenous students. The second project extends ISTEAM design features into 12 k-3 classrooms serving multi-racial, multi-lingual students. I present key design features of these environments and the ways these organize engagements examples of children’s sense-making reflective of these principles. I argue that under the right conditions children across cultural communities can and do increase forms of reasoning and engagement aligned with emergent complex systems thinking and shifting nature-culture relations. However, I also share some persistent challenges and ongoing design work in developing the educational environments we need.