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With grant, Foothill College to highlight minority scientists

Lessons to be available to science teachers across the country

Foothill College in Los Altos Hills and San Francisco State University will share a $1.1 million federal grant to develop lessons for Bay Area classrooms that highlight scientists with different racial, ethnic, sexual and gender identities.

The two-year project is being led by Foothill's Jeff Schinske and SFSU's Kimberly Tanner, both biology professors. The National Institutes of Health grant will allow undergraduate students at both schools to create hundreds of "Science Spotlights," or short assignments that focus on scientists from underrepresented populations, many of whom didn't set out to go into the science field.

The lessons, which will teach course concepts and include information on the scientists' personal lives, can be used as homework or supplementary readings. Science textbooks have traditionally "marginalized the stories and discoveries of minority scientists, which can lead students from groups not represented to disassociate with the subject," a press release states.

In an interview with SF State News, Schinske said he was "seeing all this evidence that students need to be able to see themselves in a discipline to succeed and even to be able to learn the material."

Schinske and Tanner are working to integrate the lessons into SFSU biology classes. They've also partnered with eight middle and high school instructors and four community college instructors to evaluate the lessons' efficacy in the classroom.

The lessons will be compiled in an online database that will be accessible to science teachers across the country. Eventually, the lessons will be incorporated into K-12 classrooms across the Bay Area, using surveys to "evaluate their effectiveness."

"We're collaborating to change curriculum structures that continue to send the message to students that only certain types of people do science," Tanner told SF State News.

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