An Update From our May 2021 Event “Breaking Down Silos: Exploring Work Environments, Equity in High School STEM & Foundational Math Catalysts”

“No one knows everything, everyone knows something, and together we know a lot.” 

This quote, shared by Senior Community Designer and Manager Lauren Baier at the opening session of our May 27th event “Breaking Down Silos: Exploring Working Environments, Equity in High School STEM & Foundational Math Catalysts” set the tone for the day. It echoed throughout the event as it was repeated by partners on panels, in breakout sessions, in the expo, and in the chats. The event was the capstone for our collective work on the focus catalysts of Teacher Work Environment, Foundational Math, and Equity in High School STEM during the 2020-2021 programmatic year. This year was different from years past for so many reasons including the COVID-19 pandemic that completely changed the way teaching and learning took place across the country and the renewed calls for racial justice that focused us all on the importance of working towards equity in STEM education. What remained constant, though, was our partners coming together to solve challenges that they couldn't solve on their own.

Over 130 partners came together this year to continue to make progress on the highest-leverage root causes underlying the STEM teacher shortage, working together for over four months as a part of 100Kin10 “Communities." (Click here for a full list of Communities, their descriptions, members, and leaders.) All of the Communities were represented in some way at the event, whether through participating in a panel discussion, a breakout session, or the virtual “expo.” Read on to learn about themes that emerged, lessons learned, and resources shared! 



The day began with a panel discussion on “Influence and STEM Identity,” an emerging theme amongst all of the Communities working across the different catalysts. Research supports the idea that the development of a positive STEM identity is linked to future success in both STEM majors and STEM careers; we know that this is particularly crucial when it comes to changing trajectories for Black, Latinx, and indigineous students. Xochitl Garcia of Science Friday, Gideon Weinstein of Western Governors University, and Sadie Norwick of the National Math and Science Initiative, came together to talk about what aspects of STEM identity are most important in their organizational contexts, why it matters that we promote STEM identity in students of all ages (especially elementary school aged students), and even why the development of a STEM identity in teachers is crucial. They also shared how they influence STEM identity in youth, and how all of us can work on this as a key lever in supporting equitable outcomes for all students in STEM.

The panel encouraged us to work to help students see themselves reflected in STEM spaces, to see themselves as scientists, engineers, and mathematicians, and to identify as someone who can “do” STEM. Sadie noted the natural curiosity of our youngest STEM learners and how important it is to nurture that curiosity into the development of a STEM identity. Gideon added that “curiosity is universally human; it does not ‘belong’ to any particular socioeconomic status or skin color.” It is important that students feel a sense of belonging and achievement in STEM majors and careers, regardless of their skin color, but also that we think about who defines this achievement, what it means to be successful in STEM, and even what “counts” as STEM. 

This gets at the bigger societal “why” at play; not only do we want students to be successful in STEM for their own future benefit, but STEM fields will benefit from having our students as contributors! Xochitl pointed out that “when we have a diversity of people contributing [in STEM fields], we have a fuller analysis... science isn’t in an ivory tower not impacted by is directly impacted by our context and where we’re coming from.” Intentionally working to cultivate STEM identity in our students today will impact the society of tomorrow. We all have a role to play in fostering STEM identity; watch the recording for tips on how you can get started in your context. 


Another theme that emerged throughout the day was one highlighted in our second panel. While local and global inequities were brought to the fore and exacerbated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many educators are seeing the innovations that resulted as a silver lining and catalyzing this hope toward the next phase of their work toward eliminating disparities. The panel, moderated by Renae Williams of (view it here!), was an opportunity to elevate educators and learn from their experiences over the past year. Tamar Avineri of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, Maggie Waldner of the Downtown Denver Expeditionary School, and Jason Sullivan of STEMteachersNYC, had a discussion grounded in their unique experiences and shared about what has worked and what they hope we will continue in post-pandemic times.

The power of collaboration was brought forth again and again throughout the panel as Maggie noted that people who would not normally work together came together this year to support students in new and creative ways. Tamar pointed out that the culture of collaboration that was created out of necessity turned out to be one she hopes will never go away! Releasing the need for uniformity and being flexible was also a take-away; re-evaluating the way we currently do things, and in a way that centers students is a key. As Maggie so aptly pointed out, “this thing that feels completely impossible (like teaching 1st graders on zoom!) we can make possible by being very flexible.”

Although there is no denying the difficulties that teachers faced over the past year, the panelist left us inspired to turn all of the narratives around loss (learning loss, lost time, missed opportunities) into one about all that has been learned. Jason summed up the sentiment that many hold: “what we were doing before, I’m not going to do again.” There was a sense that after all we’ve all gone through, none of us are the same - we are different people, and there is a resounding hope that what we have experienced will spur us all the more to work toward truly eliminating the inequities we see. 

In addition to the two panels, there were six partner-led breakout sessions in which Community members shared their learnings from the past few months, showcased products they created, and received feedback on their work.



One of the Communities that shared learnings was the Culturally Responsive Pedagogy and Online Instruction Community, who led a breakout session on their book club reading of Science in the City. The Community members shared two helpful tools for teachers who want to explore a text together: the “5Es” template (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate), as well as their “Triangle-Square-Circle” note-taking guide which encourages readers to “triangulate” important points from the reading, find something that “squared” with their thinking, and note something still “circling” in their heads. Both of these tools can be helpful not just for teachers, but for students! During their breakout session, one participant noted that “science teachers are also literacy teachers. There’s an opportunity to integrate literacy into science.” Thanks to this Community for sharing these great literacy resources and reminders that literacy is a key in fostering equitable access to STEM, too!

Another Community focused on literacy in a different sense: digital literacy. The Distance and Digital Learning: Challenges and Opportunities Community shared “lessons learned” in a Q&A session about topics they had explored over the course of this cycle. Topics included:

Distance Learning Opportunities & Strategies

Building Community in the Digital Classroom

Pedagogies that work in a hybrid/remote classroom

Resources & models for expanded course access

Click the links above to glean from their wealth of knowledge on each topic! 


Two of the Communities this cycle focused on creating products to support elementary school teachers in delivering “joyful and authentic” STEM experiences. Highlighting the synergy amongst sessions at the event, it was noted in one breakout conversation that the COVID-19 pandemic served to shine a light on the need to foster a STEM identity in teachers and prepare elementary teachers to feel confident integrating STEM into their classrooms. For many it was simply “easier” to teach English virtually rather than math and science. To that end, the Elementary Teacher Preparation with a STEM Focus Community created a video series meant to “increase the knowledge and confidence level of elementary teachers to integrate STEM education into their classrooms.” On the website they created, they note that “instilling the love and passion for STEM does not begin in middle school or high school. It early as preschool years.” They go on to say that this can only happen through restructuring teacher preparation programs to provide training and support specific to STEM instruction. Check out their website to learn more about how to do this! 

Along these same lines, the Transforming Foundational Math Pedagogy Community shared plans for their three-part webinar series (to be held later this summer!) to help K-2 teachers learn to foster mathematical discourse in their students. Harkening back to the first panel, this group noted the importance of fostering math identity in elementary teachers as a foundational step to building a strong mathematical community with students. The web series then focuses on identifying strong tasks that will foster discourse, and finally, how teachers can strategically plan for mathematical discussions using Cognitively Guided Instruction. You can view their slideshow here to learn more about their series!



Finally, two of our Communities honed in on social justice in STEM and how teachers can advocate for and with students. The Statistical Literacy, Computational Thinking, and Social Justice Community led a breakout session in which they shared their “Toolkit to Foster Positive STEM Identity via Critical STEM Pedagogy.” Connecting to the earlier theme of literacy, this team sees computational literacy as a way to empower young people in the fight for social justice. Based on their own experiences as educators, this Community built the toolkit by drawing upon their own work in dismantling inequities. Recognizing the power in data, the toolkit seeks to arm students (and teachers!) with the resources to read, analyze, and interrogate data sets; analyze the source of the data; and then use the data to expose injustices, develop new ideas, and solve societal problems. The three tools include definitions around critical pedagogy, questions to help educators evaluate and assess their students' experiences through the lens of Critical STEM Pedagogy, and a guide to have students critically examine resources in a lesson.

The Unconventional STEM Career Pathways Community shared and received feedback on their product, a “Toolkit for Teachers’ Self-Advocacy around Social Justice in STEM.” The purpose of their toolkit is to “support teachers who want to address broader societal issues in STEM class/es by providing them tools to advocate for themselves to stakeholders, and ultimately implement practices in their classroom that most benefit their students’ futures in STEM.” The toolkit presents three “phases” of a teacher’s journey toward supporting equitable outcomes in STEM: Teacher as Learner, Teacher as Instructional Leader, and Teacher as Advocate. While resources are provided to help teachers who may be more focused on the first two, the bulk of the toolkit is dedicated to teachers who want to advance in their role as an advocate for change and culminates in a sample letter to stakeholders. 


In addition to the panels and breakout sessions, ten expo booths were available for the course of the event. You can check out the content of these booths here, including products from other Communities,100Kin10 catalyst research updates, and more!

As we close this cycle of Communities, the image of puzzle pieces coming together that was shared by Talia Milgrom-Elcott during her welcome comes to mind. This truly encapsulates not just the event, but the work of the 100Kin10 network as a whole; each piece of work shared contributes to our collective puzzle and with each piece we get closer to realizing the vision of excellent STEM education for all of our nation’s students. 


While we are excited at the progress this group of partners has made, we know there is still a long road ahead. Later this summer, we will start recruiting for new collaborative groups focused on Work Environments for Teachers, Foundational Math, and Equity in High School STEM. In mid-July, we will put out the call for leaders to step up to lead a team. Once we have the proposed topics, we will begin member recruitment, and the work will kick off in September. Want to learn more or already know you want to be a part of a collaborative working group? Email Julie to get started!