I got so excited about the project that I eventually persuaded Michael and Professor Eglash to let me join the research team. Last semester, I completed my CITI training and started to prepare for the observation days that occurred in late February. This semester, I participated in the Cornrow Curves project through an independent study course, in which I did preparation, contributed to the CSDT website , and learned some STS concepts.
Before we actually got into the school to observe the students’ impressions and interactions with the concept of Cornrow Curves, I helped prepare for the observation day. One of my first tasks was to find a hairdresser who would be willing to work with a science class and RPI researchers to talk about how cornrows are inherently mathematical. Within the first five calls I was fortunate to reach Nicole . Nicole understands the importance of pedagogy and the challenges that face marginalized students in STEM classes, and was excited by the prospect that cornrows are mathematical by their very nature. Nicole became the hairdresser that we’re working with on the Cornrow Curves project.
The next big task, which Michael and I tackled together, was the lesson plan . After much deliberation, we decided on deliverables and detailed plans for both classroom days. For the first day, the deliverable was supposed to be a cornrow design, but wound up being the Cultural Context worksheets. The second day, the deliver...
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The Cornrow Curves project has been a wonderful opportunity to see how unalienated value within a STEM classroom can enhance student understanding of mathematical concepts, especially for students from marginalized backgrounds. It was wonderful to see that the project sparked the imaginations of students that are normally easily distracted or disinterested. While CITI training was tedious, the project as a whole has been a worthwhile and inspiring experience; I look forward to working on this project more in the future and improving the lesson plan over time. In addition to all the concepts I’ve learned, I got to see the research process up close, which will help to conceptualize it when I eventually lead a project of my own. This whole project has taught me that even though I am primarily an STS student, I must be well-rounded to thrive in a research environment.
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