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Birmingham-Southern College awarded $1.25M STEM grant to develop curriculum

Birmingham-Southern College (BSC) has been awarded $1.25 million to develop curriculum centered around environmental-related issues for schools in Mobile.

The grant, which was issued by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Gulf Coast Research Program, was an effort led by BSC Southern Environmental Center Roald Hazelhoff.

The grant effort, led by Roald Hazelhoff, executive director of the Southern Environmental Center at BSC, includes BSC faculty members Dr. Vincent T. Gawronski, professor of political science; Dr. Kate Hayden, associate professor of chemistry; Dr. Desireé Melonas, assistant professor of political science and director of the BSC Black Studies Program; and Dr. Kelly Russell, associate professor of education.

BSC education, chemistry, and political science students will also be part of this multi-year initiative.

“I look forward to the BSC team continuing to work together,” said Dr. Kelly Russell, BSC associate professor of education. “The relationship we are building as an interdisciplinary team is uniquely BSC, and students within several BSC majors and distinctions will have the opportunity to participate.”

The team will partner with community agencies and educators in Africatown, a historic community north of downtown Mobile, to develop a locally relevant middle school curriculum focused on environmental justice that aligns directly with the Alabama State science and social studies standards.

The curriculum will incorporate the disciplines known as STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – along with service learning to make connections between local environment, the community, and individual health. The project will initially target middle school students at Mobile County Training School in Africatown before expanding to include nearby Vigor High School.

Students from Africatown – founded by 32 formerly enslaved West Africans who had been brought illegally to the Mobile Bay area in 1860 as captives on the Clotilda, the last known U.S. slave ship – and surrounding communities will explore the impact of years of environmental injustice and pollution in their neighborhoods.

Specifically, they will learn how the local environment affects human and community health and how public policies, climate change, and industrial pollution impact schools and neighborhoods.

Students will partner with community leaders and organizations such as CHESS (Clean, Healthy, Educated, Safe & Sustainable) and the Alabama Coastal Foundation to develop and participate in service projects aimed at revitalizing and restoring neighborhoods, parks, and ecosystems.

Once implemented, project leaders believe it will create learning opportunities that allow students to achieve the state science and social studies standards while also becoming change agents in their home communities. Findings and outcomes will be shared at an environmental justice and climate change conference.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine endeavors to provide independent, objective advice to inform policy with evidence, spark progress and innovation, and confront challenging issues for the benefit of society.

The goal of the Gulf Research Program is to use science, engineering, and medical knowledge to empower its citizens and to enhance areas, including education and engagement, health and resilience, offshore energy safety, and environmental protection and stewardship.

Dylan Smith is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL

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