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A Bridge to . . . ? STEM, Decontextualization, and Colonialism Friday, November 18, 2011 | 12:15 PM - 1:30 PM

40 Peik Hall

Diversity Dialogue

Presentation by Bhaskar Upadhyay, Mary (Fong) Hermes, and Timothy Lensmire from Curriculum and Instruction.

When Suman’s grandmother, Ajee, becomes sick, all Suman can think about is the upcoming rainy season in his home country of Nepal. What if the rains are so heavy, they flood the river and cut off access to medical help?

Suman is relieved when he hears that his village is thinking about building a special kind of bridge called a TarPul. He befriends a geotechnical engineer, who teaches him the importance of choosing a good location for the TarPul. . . . When Suman’s father disagrees with the geotechnical engineer about the location for the bridge, Suman realizes he has to convince his father to change his mind—for the sake of the village and for Ajee.

--description of the Engineering is Elementary storybook, Suman Crosses the Karnali River: A Geotechnical Engineering Story

Our Diversity Dialogue focuses on Bhaskar’s experiences with a STEM curriculum that is very popular at the moment in elementary schools.  Bhaskar, who was born in Nepal, was invited into an elementary classroom to work with children in relation to the story and engineering problem described above.

In our presentation, Bhaskar will introduce the curriculum and discuss elementary students’ responses to it.  Then, Bhaskar, Fong, and Tim will provide short, critical readings of the curriculum and its use in elementary school classrooms.  These readings will explore how, in the (seeming) attempt to provide a meaningful context for taking up engineering problems, this curriculum ends up decontextualizing learning, devaluing the knowledges and values of people not from whitestream cultures, and reinscribing a colonialist project.

Pizza will be served!

Bhaskar Upadyay is an associate professor in C&I.

Mary (Fong) Hermes is an associate professor of Education, U of MN-Duluth, and a visiting professor in C& I.

Timothy Lensmire is an associate professor in C&I.