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Cultivating a Passion for STEM: From the Classroom to the Garden

When I first stepped into Oakwood Avenue Community School in Orange, NJ, I brought with me a wealth of experience: a PhD in Urban Systems from Rutgers University, a background in classroom teaching, and the experience of founding and leading a nonprofit. However, one thing I knew very little about was gardening. This all changed thanks to Judith Powell, our school nurse and the sister of Dr. Arthur Powell, a mathematics education professor at Rutgers University in Newark and chair of my dissertation committee.

My Mission in Urban Education

Dr. Arthur Powell has dedicated over 30 years to understanding and improving urban education, particularly in science and math. His insights into culturally relevant pedagogy and the unique needs of urban students have profoundly influenced my approach to teaching. These lessons, combined with my own experiences, have shaped my mission: to inspire girls, especially Black and brown girls, to pursue STEM education.

How I Became Involved in Gardening

At Oakwood Avenue Community School, I envisioned myself coaching a robotics program, leveraging my background to spark interest in technology. However, I soon discovered a new opportunity to make a difference—the community garden. Judith Powell, with her extensive knowledge of gardening, quickly became my mentor. Under her guidance, I learned the intricacies of maintaining a garden, from planting to harvest.

The community garden became a hub of activity and learning. It presented opportunities to collaborate with other teachers, engage with the neighborhood, and use my nonprofit to raise funds. The garden wasn't just a place to grow vegetables; it was a place to grow community and connection.

Through the garden, students learned about biology, ecology, and sustainability. They saw firsthand how STEM principles applied to real-world problems. They understood the importance of food security and the role of urban gardens in addressing this issue. The garden became a living classroom, fostering curiosity and a love for science in our students.

Why We Need Our Girls to Become STEM Educators

This experience reinforced the importance of STEM education and the need for more Black and brown women in this field. My work with the garden and my broader mission as a STEM educator have shown me the profound impact that dedicated educators can have on their communities. We need leaders who understand the complexities of the 21st-century science classroom and who are committed to making STEM accessible to all students.

To the young girls reading this: Consider a career in STEM education. Yes, it is challenging, but it is also incredibly rewarding. The skills you gain as a science teacher can open doors to numerous opportunities, from teaching to nonprofit leadership to curriculum development. You can make a difference in your community and inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and educators.

And to the public: We need your support. Consider donating to our mission to cultivate a love for STEM in our students. Your contributions will help us maintain the community garden, support STEM programs, and provide resources for our teachers and students. Together, we can create a brighter future for our children and our communities.

Call to Action

Join us in nurturing the next generation of STEM leaders. Support Oakwood Avenue Community School's community garden and STEM programs. Your donation can help us provide the tools and resources our students need to succeed. Let's inspire more girls to pursue STEM and make a lasting impact on our community.

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