Multicultural Science Education

Teaching Science in Multi(sub)cultural Classrooms: Praxis for Teaching Hipsters (pt. 2)

Logistics: They could have used an educator like Randi

Logistics: They could have used an educator like Randi

PT II: Fostering Uniqueness, Guiding Creativity

A profound skill the hipster exhibits is their creativity and ability to think broadly. Environmental educators should foster this creativity through a variety of projects and assignments. The following are a few examples of projects that seem to motivate and spark an interest in hipsters:


  • Instead of writing a research paper, students could make an environmentally thoughtful piece of art (either in materials, meaning or both).
  • They could participate in an environmental experiment such as going vegan or working on an organic farm and then write an experience piece.
  • They could read articles in scientific journals and write abstracts on current environmental issues and research.
  • Some other options would be for students to collaborate with others and join an environmental comity on campus, watch an environmentally related TED presentation or attend a public meeting held by the EPA.
  • They could create their own, personal and environmentally relevant assignment.

Because these students are keen on variety, when given the opportunity to create their own novel assignment, they will often exceed expectations. The objective of assignments is to provide students with an interesting experience and then allow them to construct their own meaning (i.e., constructivism). Let students know you are there for guidance, but that they are in charge of their own learning.

Creativity waiting for inspiration

Creativity waiting for inspiration

Unfettered Freedom?

Should students stop writing research papers all together? No, this is an invaluable skill for scientists. But what is the purpose of an intro environmental science course?

James Trefil (2008) suggests that science education should produce students who can “read a newspaper.” When hipsters read an article about water shortages or hear a piece on NPR about climate change, they should be able to discuss it with their peers and family members. There ought to be an awareness and developed sensitivity towards the issues. Today’s youth are propagating an egocentric Zeitgeist.

A shift in values is required, but these egocentrisms will not transpire without the use of metacognition (i.e., thinking about thinking). If we are to develop critical thinkers, this involves hipsters reflecting on their own belief systems and asking the question, “why do I think the way I think and how are my actions reflective of my core values?” The Federal Register states that,

Environmental education is a process that leads to responsible individual and group actions… Environmental education should enhance critical thinking, problem solving, and effective decision-making skills. Environmental education should engage and motivate individuals as well as enable them to weigh various sides of an environmental issue to make informed and responsible decisions  (US EPA, 1992, p.47516).

Changing cultural norms is not easy. But if anyone can, it is the educator. By creating an interesting, meaningful and motivating course, one that encourages reflection, critical thinking, discussion and problem solving, we advance a counter-culture that naturally strengthens the union between altruistic values, beliefs and actions. This is a culture for future generations wherein members are allied with their biotic and abiotic surroundings and have a strong sense of community, leadership and advocacy.

This is the new moral for the classroom, the new culture for the hipster. I know who I am as an individual: I am a product of the hipster counterculture, the breathing praxis. As an educator, this is not something to be ashamed of, but is something to be celebrated and utilized. When we promote honesty and transparency in the classroom it is reflected back onto us from our students. It is time we stop ignoring our cultures as educators and begin to embrace them.

Bruner, J. (1996). The Culture of Education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Giroux, H. A. (2011). On critical pedagogy. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Iozzi, L. A., & Shepard, C. L. (1989). Building multicultural webs through environmental education: 1988 conference proceedings: selected papers from the Seventeenth Annual Conference of the North American Association for Environmental Education, held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Orlando, Florida, October 14-19, 1988. Troy, Ohio: The Association.

Svinicki, M. D., McKeachie, W. J., & McKeachie, W. J. (2011). McKeachie’s teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers. Belmont, CA:  Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Trefil, J. (January 01, 2008). Science Education for Everyone: Why and What?. Liberal Education, 94, 2, 6-11.

U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). (1992). Federal Register, October 16, 1992. p.47516.

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