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Engaging STEM for the Femme & The Minority “Them”

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects are critical for success in today's technological world. Despite efforts to promote gender and racial equality in STEM fields, there is still a significant disparity in the performance of girls and minorities. Research shows that girls and minorities are less likely to pursue STEM fields and have lower achievement levels in these subjects compared to their male and non-minority peers. The incorporation of dance and movement into STEM lessons has the potential to not only address the low performance of girls and minorities in STEM but also enhance brain development and academic performance. This thesis statement will delve into the benefits of movement for brain development, examine the reasons behind the underperformance of girls and minorities in STEM, and propose the integration of movement-based strategies as a solution to bridge the achievement gap in STEM education.

Disparities in STEM Achievement

According to research, minorities and girls are underrepresented in STEM fields and perform less well than their male and non-minority peers in these fields. Women made up only 28% of the science and engineering workforce in 2018, according to the National Science Foundation, and minorities continue to be underrepresented in these fields. Additionally, research has shown that compared to their white and Asian counterparts, students of African American, Latino, and Native American descent are less likely to pursue STEM degrees in college. Additionally, when compared to boys, girls consistently perform worse on standardized tests in STEM subjects like the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).


Reasons for the Disparities

Girls and people of color typically perform less well in STEM fields for a variety of reasons. They frequently do not have access to STEM resources and programs, which is one of the causes. Girls are less likely to have access to STEM after-school programs, summer camps, and mentorship opportunities, according to the National Girls Collaborative Project. Similarly to this, underrepresented minorities have a lower likelihood of having access to STEM resources and programs in their local communities.


The lack of representation of women and minorities in STEM fields is another cause of the disparities. According to research, role models are essential for motivating and inspiring students to choose STEM careers. Students may find it challenging to picture themselves in STEM fields due to the significant underrepresentation of women and minorities in these fields.

Solution: Including dance and movement

Incorporating dance and movement into these lessons is one possible way to address the low performance of girls and people of color in STEM fields. Physical activity can improve cognitive function, raise engagement, and improve learning retention, according to research. Furthermore, studies have shown that dance can enhance spatial reasoning abilities, which are essential for success in STEM professions. Movement is a fundamental aspect of human life, and it has been shown to have several benefits to both the brain and body. Incorporating movement into lessons and activities at school has been found to enhance learning, cognitive function, and physical health.

Benefits to the Brain

  1. Enhanced Cognitive Function Research has shown that incorporating movement into lessons and activities at school can enhance cognitive function. For instance, a study by Tomporowski et al. (2015) found that short bouts of physical activity during academic lessons improved attention and academic performance in elementary school children. Additionally, a systematic review by Singh et al. (2018) found that physical activity interventions improved cognitive function in children and adolescents.

  2. Improved Memory Movement improves memory. A study by Roig et al. (2013) found that a single session of exercise improved memory retention in healthy young adults. Similarly, a systematic review by Ludyga et al. (2016) found that physical activity interventions improved memory in children and adolescents.

  3. Reduced Stress and Anxiety Movement reduces stress and anxiety. A study by Gerber et al. (2014) found that a 12-week physical activity intervention reduced stress and anxiety in adolescents. Similarly, a systematic review by Kandola et al. (2019) found that physical activity interventions reduced anxiety in children and adolescents.


Benefits to the Body

  1. Improved Physical Health Incorporating movement into lessons and activities at school has been found to improve physical health. A systematic review by Langford et al. (2014) found that school-based physical activity interventions improved cardiorespiratory fitness in children and adolescents. Additionally, a study by Dobbins et al. (2015) found that school-based physical activity interventions improved physical activity levels and body composition in children and adolescents.

  2. Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases Physical activity interventions in schools have also been found to reduce the risk of chronic diseases. A systematic review by Katzmarzyk et al. (2018) found that school-based physical activity interventions reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease risk factors, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol, in children and adolescents. Similarly, a study by Alm et al. (2015) found that a 2-year physical activity intervention in elementary schools reduced the risk of overweight and obesity in children.

Conclusion: A 'step' in the right direction

Incorporating movement into lessons and activities at school has several benefits to both the brain and body. These benefits include enhanced cognitive function, improved memory, reduced stress and anxiety, improved physical health, and reduced risk of chronic diseases. Therefore, educators and policymakers should consider incorporating movement into school curricula and activities to promote overall health and well-being among students.


Moreover, connecting students' interests and cultural backgrounds with STEM principles may be accomplished by introducing dance and movement into STEM classes. STEM teachings may become more inclusive and applicable to all students by combining dance and movement from other cultures.


It is critical to address the underperformance of women and people of color in STEM areas. By introducing dance and movement into STEM education, this problem may be overcome. By doing this, we can inspire more females and people of color to seek careers in STEM disciplines and improve STEM instruction for all kids by making it more inclusive, interesting, and relevant.



Bibliography:

  • Alm, B., Enghardt Barbieri, H., & Svensson, K. (2015). Effects of a two-year school-based daily physical activity intervention on cardiorespiratory fitness: the European Youth Heart Study, Danish cluster-randomized controlled trial. BMC Pediatrics, 15(1), 1-10.

  • Dobbins, M., DeCorby, K., Manske, S., Goldblatt, E., & Effective Public Health Practice Project. (2015). School-Based Physical Activity Programs for Promoting Physical Activity and Fitness in Children and Adolescents Aged 6 to 18. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2015(2), CD007651.

  • Dobbins, M., Husson, H., DeCorby, K., & LaRocca, R. L. (2015). School-based physical activity programs for promoting physical activity and fitness in children and adolescents aged 6 to 18. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2(2), 1-182.

  • Gerber, M., Endes, K., Brand, S., Herrmann, C., Colledge, F., & Donath, L. (2014). In 12-Week Aerobic Exercise Program Reduces Blood Pressure and Improves Quality of Life in Young, Normotensive Patients with Major Depression. Psychiatry Research, 216(1), 97-102.

  • Kandola, A., Lewis, G., & Osborn, M. (2019). The Effectiveness of Physical Activity Interventions on Reducing Anxiety in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 13(1), 22.

  • Katzmarzyk, P. T., Denstel, K. D., Beals, K., Bolling, C., Wright, C., Crouter, S. E., McKenzie, T. L., Pate, R. R., & Saelens, B. E. (2018). Results from the United States 2018 Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 15(S2), S422-S424. doi: 10.1123/jpah.2018-0510

  • Langford, R., Bonell, C., Jones, H. E., Pouliou, T., Murphy, S. M., Waters, E., Komro, K. A., Gibbs, L. F., Magnus, D., Campbell, R., & the WHO Health Promoting Schools Research Group. (2014). The World Health Organization's Health Promoting Schools Framework: A Coordinated International Study. Health Education Research, 29(6), 982-997.

  • Ludyga, S., Gerber, M., & Brand, S. (2016). Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Cognitive Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 24, 24-48.

  • National Center for Education Statistics. (2019). The Nation's Report Card: 2019 Mathematics and Reading Assessments. Retrieved from https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/

  • National Center for Education Statistics. (2020). NAEP Data Explorer. https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/

  • National Girls Collaborative Project. (2021). Girls in STEM: A Guide to Resources. https://ngcproject.org/girls-stem-guide-resources

  • National Girls Collaborative Project. (n.d.). Research. Retrieved from https://ngcproject.org/research

  • National Science Foundation. (2019). Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2019. https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/wmpd/

  • National Science Foundation. (2020). Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering. Retrieved from https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/women/

  • Rideout, E., & Gray, K. (2013). Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. American Association of University Women.

  • Roig, M., Nordbrandt, S., Geertsen, S. S., & Nielsen, J. B. (2013). The Effects of Cardiovascular Exercise on Human Memory: A Review with Meta-Analysis. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 37(8), 1645-1666.

  • Singh, A., Uijtdewilligen, L., Twisk, J. W., van Mechelen, W., & Chinapaw, M. J. (2018). Physical activity and performance at school: A systematic review of the literature including a methodological quality assessment. Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine, 172(1), 19-25.

  • Singh, A. S., Saliasi, E., van den Berg, V., Uijtdewilligen, L., de Groot, R. H., & Jolles, J. (2018). Effects of Physical Activity Interventions on Cognitive and Academic Performance in Children and Adolescents: A Novel Combination of a Systematic Review and Recommendations from an Expert Panel. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 52(21), 1397-1404.

  • Tomporowski, P. D., Davis, C. L., Miller, P. H., & Naglieri, J. A. (2015). Exercise and Children's Intelligence, Cognition, and Academic Achievement. Educational Psychology Review, 27(4), 413-426.

  • Tomporowski, P. D., Davis, C. L., Miller, P. H., & Naglieri, J. A. (2015). Exercise and children's intelligence, cognition, and academic achievement. Educational Psychology Review, 27(4), 441-449.

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