Can You Teach Chemistry in a Juvenile Detention Center?June 15, 2008 at 11:59 pm | Posted in Content Area Literacy, literacy, Technology | 3 Comments
Tags: chemistry science education juvenile gifted disabilitie
Authored by Rachel Gee
(Each student in GMST 525 has written their own post for our class blog.)
Last year, a weeklong conference on “Teaching Math and Science in an Urban Setting” impressed upon me not only the tremendous need for teachers in city schools, but also the stunning possibility of physical danger. “Why not teach at Industry?” a friend asked me. (Industry is a juvenile detention center located in sourthern Monroe county.) “There are multiple ‘sentries’ in every classroom. You’d be a lot safer.” A seed was planted.
The seed has grown—especially when I read articles like the editorial in last week’s Democrat and Chronicle, “Invisible Learning Disabilities Visibly Scar Youths” that as many as 80 percent of jailed juveniles have learning disabilities. Or another perhaps not-so-suprising statistic, in Marylou Streznewski’s Gifted Grown-Ups that gifted people (i.e. with IQs over 130) form a “disproportionately larger portion of the prison population, perhaps as much as 20%. This is in contrast to the 3-5% of the general public who are gifted” (p. 164).
I have felt a strong pull to help these children, but what teaching strategies could I employ to make a difference?
This semester’s MST Literacy class has gone a long way to answer many of the questions I’ve had about how to raise interest in my content area (chemistry, math) by the extensive toolbox of reading and writing strategies I now have at my use. But lingering questions remain:
- How can I ‘build community’ in a classroom where more than half the students are members of opposing gangs?
- How can I make use of the extensive Web 2.0 tools on the internet, when NY State controls/limits Internet access to students and forbids email accounts?
- How can I teach chemistry when lab exercises seem all but impossible because of prohibited use of chemicals and most supplies?