STEM and Black Panther Curriculum

It has been quite some time since I have posted, but I have diligently working hard in my classroom and completing classes towards my doctorate of education degree.  Now that I have had a bit of downtime, I have had the chance to create an introductory lesson and lesson one of a five lesson curriculum that incorporates STEM and Black Panther.  If you are a STEM teacher (or any other kind of teacher) looking for an exciting way to bring Black Panther into your classroom, then this curriculum is for you.  

The introductory lesson of this curriculum focuses on Afrofuturism.  The first lesson in this curriculum focuses on the Law of Reflection (NGSS MS-PS4-2) and Holograms (as evidenced in Black Panther). 

The first two parts of this curriculum are FREE! I want to share my creative resources with others at no charge.  

If you WOULD like to leave a donation of any sort to show support, you can leave it here: Social EndeavHERS

Social EndeavHERs is an organization dedicated to young, Black and Brown women interested in using science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to create social change.

You can download the curriculum below:

STEM and Black Panther Teacher Guide

STEM and Black Panther Lesson and Worksheets

The other four parts of this curriculum will be available at a later date. Enjoy and please share how these lessons go with your students! 

Restorative Justice and Peer Mediation: Avenues For Change

I have the honor of collaborating with Kathy Lebrón on this post.  We saw a need to address how the system disproportionately disciplines and criminalizes students of color.  We wanted to get people thinking about positive alternatives to the traditional forms of behavior management systems and chose to focus on restorative justice and peer mediation as avenues for change.  

Behavior and the process to discipline students based on behavior has been a major topic in the educational community.  Various forms of intervention have been implemented through schools across the United States.  The majority of these methods involve some form of a tiered system, where consequences layer based upon the severity and frequency of student actions.  Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) systems offer different strategies, most including a point system where students gain or lose points based on behavior.  These types of systems usually involve a punishment and reward system for behaviors, rather than immediately addressing the root causes of the behaviors and restoring peace within the community.  Restorative Justice provides a positive alternative to these traditional PBIS systems.

Restorative Justice gained popularity in the 1970’s with the introduction of victim-offender mediation programs; however, ancient societies have always used various forms of mediation to address conflict, restore relationships, and build community.  Indigenous cultures have generations of experience utilizing restorative practices to mend relationships and repair harm that has occurred within their communities.  Restorative Practices are now slowly becoming an integral part of creating healthy, peaceful communities and justice systems.

Differences between Restorative Practices and Restorative Justice

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Restorative Practices is the umbrella term for a philosophy that views relationships as an integral component to fostering positive and healthy learning environments. Unlike traditional “zero-tolerance” school policies that often target disenfranchised populations, Restorative Practices enable people to restore relationships, resolve conflicts and build community in proactive and positive ways. These practices have roots in Restorative Justice. Restorative Justice is an approach that focuses on repairing relationships and the harm done to people versus simply punishing offenders. This approach is influenced by ancient and indigenous practices performed in cultures worldwide.

Restorative Practices involve interventions when harm has happened, as well as practices that help to prevent harm and conflict by creating a sense of belonging, safety, and social responsibility within the school community. They also involve “making it right” when a “harm” has occurred.

A relationship cannot be restored if it doesn’t exist.
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Relationships are important. When an incident occurs, the focus is on the harm caused to the relationship and how to repair said relationship; rather than what rule has been broken and what consequences will be imposed. We use Restorative Justice to respond to harm that someone has caused and to find ways to repair that harm so that healing and change can take place.

If you would like to visually represent Restorative Practices in your classroom, be sure to check out these FREE posters, which was an initiative spearheaded by Project NIA.

Peace Circles

Peace circles, or Restorative Justice circles, can serve many functions and they can be used proactively as well as a means for intervention. When used proactively, circles can help people develop and build relationships. When used as an intervention method, they can help respond to conflicts and wrongdoings. The circle process allows people to share their stories, their perspectives and makes them feel they have an equal say. Circles are a way of bringing people together in which: everyone is respected, everyone gets a chance to talk without interruption, participants explain themselves by telling their stories and everyone is equal – no person is more important than anyone else. Thus, Restorative Circles are excellent practice in shifting the needle toward a POWER WITH instead of a POWER OVER approach. Sharing power creates a win-win situation for members of the circle and allows students to feel empowered.

Typically, circles follow a given structure and contain the following elements:

  • Keeper: a neutral facilitator who “keeps” the circle going (i.e. the teacher)
  • Talking Piece: an object that people pass around and it signals it’s only their turn to share (can be anything from a ball, a keychain, a toy microphone, etc.)
  • Values: identified by everyone in the circle in order to create a respectful atmosphere
  • Guidelines: generating guidelines based on shared values
  • Ceremony: tradition to open the circle
  • Stages: 1) Specific intentions, 2) Intended Outcomes, 3) Activities/Guiding Questions, 4) Keeper techniques
  • Consensus: get everyone to offer their perspective
  • Storytelling: circle participants share their stories and lived experiences as well as reflect on the present
  • Closing ceremony: tradition to close the circle

Sticking to these elements is imperative to preserving the integrity and intentionality of a circle. You can see these elements at play in this video about Restorative Justice in Oakland Schools.

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Peace/Restorative Circles can be used for a myriad of situations, including: teaching curriculum, developing shared agreements for classroom behaviors, checking in/out, solving classroom problems, healing from loss, discussing/solving conflict and problems, etc.. When using circles proactively and to prevent harm, you can build relationships with students in positive and meaningful ways. You can find 48 circle prompts in this resource that I, The Radical Maestra, created to get to know your students better and vice-versa. It can also help to proactively guide discussions with students around relationship-building, values, identity and curriculum.

Peer Mediation

Peer mediation is a restorative practice that provides an opportunity for student accountability.  An entire school community gains value in learning how to mediate situations between peers.  Peer mediation is a six step process that consists of:

  1. Agree to Mediate: there must be consent from all parties involved, including the mediator, to mediate the conflict

  2. Gathering Points of View: mediators must allow all individuals the opportunity to tell their story, while identifying and understanding the multiple perspectives being discussed

  3. Focus on Needs and Interests: Mediators must center the focus of the conversation on what the involved parties need to resolve the conflict

  4. Create Win-Win Solutions: Focus on creating resolutions that are specific, balanced, reasonable, and thoroughly solve the problem

  5. Evaluate Options: Consider the various solutions and determine the solution that best solves the problem

  6. Create and Sign An Agreement: The involved parties collectively write out the established agreement and sign the agreement.

Individuals can alternate between the role of peer mediator to ensure that all parties have the opportunity to actively participate in this restorative practice.  Teaching all individuals to be peer mediators and allowing this participation can help create an environment where students are empowered to manage and have autonomy over their own and their peers actions.  For more information about how to implement peer mediation as a restorative practice, download the free conflict resolution and peer mediation toolkit from IREX here.  

It is our hope that you reflect on your current behavior management and disciplinarian practices as well as the potential impacts they have on students, especially students of color. How can you implement more collaborative, student-centered, and POWER WITH approaches in your classroom and school to resolve and repair conflicts and harm?


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Institute for Restorative Initiatives, Center for Restorative Justice,

Circle Forward: Building a Restorative School Community. Boyes-Watson & Pranis. Living Justice Press. 2015. Cambridge, MA.

Restorative Justice Pocketbook. Thorsborne & Vinegrad. 2009.

Conferencing Handbook. The New Real Justice Training Manual. O’Connell and Wachtel. Real Justice. 1999.

Johnson, D. W. and Johnson, R. T. (2012). Restorative justice in the classroom: Necessary roles of cooperative context, constructive conflict, and civic Values. Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, 5: 4–28

Long Overdue For New Thanksgiving Lesson Plans

Tomorrow many of you will be celebrating Thanksgiving, a holiday dedicated to giving thanks and spending time with loved ones while feasting on delicious food.  However, most of us have been given this false narrative of the story of Thanksgiving, involving pilgrims and Native Americans.  We do lesson plans with our students centered around coloring turkeys, presenting skits where children reenact the first Thanksgiving, and having students compile lists of gratefulness.  We fail to take the time to teach our children about the true history of Thanksgiving, either from lack of knowledge on the subject or fear of appearing to indoctrinate our students.  Since 1970, Native Americans have commemorated a National Day of Mourning on Thanksgiving Day, focusing on the genocide of millions of Native Americans at the hands of Pilgrims and other European settlers.  

I would encourage you to seek the graphic, but true origins of Thanksgiving and to research the National Day of Mourning.  This type of information should be taught to our children as part of culturally relevant pedagogy.  The racism and oppression that Native Americans have experienced in this country has extended far beyond that first Thanksgiving and the first step to combatting those issues today is to teach our youth.  Some teachers talk about introducing socially conscious topics in the classroom, but fail to do so when they are plenty of opportunities.  You have 365 days until the next Thanksgiving. Get to preparing those lesson plans now!

Traditional Science Fairs Are Played Out

Science Fair - that time of year that is “for” the students, but the teachers and parents are the most stressed.  Trying to find a project idea that is competitive enough for your child to beat out every other student in their class requires a ton of work.  Parents wind up doing a lot of the grunt work and making sure that their child’s project is top notch.  Although it is important for our students to experience competition, it is equally important that we recognize the research and hard work necessary to do a science project.  My hope is that we will eventually move away from science fairs and move towards STEM symposiums because let's be real - traditional science fairs are played out. 

Symposium - a formal meeting where experts discuss a particular topic

Students doing STEM projects and research are “experts” in the most general sense of the word.  Students put in the work, researching information about their topics, establishing important details that will enhance their work, and creating innovative ways to test their topics. 

How can we ensure that our students are the experts who are creating ways to change the world around them? Below is a six step process for revamping the scientific process and enabling students to be more creative in their thought processes. 

Step 1: Wake Up!

Have students write down a list of five problems or issues that affect the lives of them, their family, or their communities.  

Guiding Questions

1. What is a problem that affects your daily life?

2. What is a problem that affects your parents or family as a whole?

3. What is a problem that affects your community?

Step 2: Who's To Blame?

Have students create a list of things that can be the key causes for the problem.

Guiding Questions

1. Why does this problem exist?

2. Who/What has caused this problem?

Step 3: Focus On One

Have students select 1 of the problems they listed.  

Guiding Questions

1. Which of the problems affects you or your family the most?

2. Which of the problems is the most intriguing to you? 

3. Which problem will have the most significance if a solution is created?

Step 4: Solve It!

Have students create a list of innovative ways they can use STEM to fix the problem they have selected. 

Guiding Questions

1. How can you use STEM to solve the problem?

2. What resources will you need to solve the problem?

Step 5: Research

Have students research all possible solutions the problem as well as any STEM information related to the problem. 

1. Are there any solutions to the problem that already exist? If so, how you can you enhance those solutions?

2. What problems may arise with your solution?

3. Can your solution be done so that it solves the problem for all individuals affected?

Step 6: Plan It Out

This is where the scientific method or engineering process should begin.  Students should go through the typical method and determine a way to test their solution to determine if it will actually work.  This will allow students the opportunity to go back to the drawing board to perfect their process. 

Guiding Questions

1. What are you trying to test? 

2. What is your hypothesis?

3. What materials will you need for this experiment?

4. What steps will you take to test your hypothesis?

5. What conclusions arose after your experiment?

Once students have completed this final step, then they can begin to compile a presentation where they are truly the experts on their topic and are providing a way to intersect STEM and Social Change.  

More information on this topic is soon to come! Join our mailing list for a copy of the PDF copy of the student and teacher guide for creating innovative STEM and Social Change projects. 







Do Not Disturb

Do not disturb has become such a common phrase in the 21st century.  It has become so commonplace that Apple has geniusly incorporated it into iPhones.  What does it mean? It could mean quite a few things.  “Do not interrupt me because I’m busy!” or “Do not wake me up because I need my sleep!” or “Keep quiet because I am resting!” All different ways to keep people away while you are sleeping or too busy to talk.  Well, in the words of Ludacris, it’s about time for us to start “disturbing tha peace!”  Far too many of us are sleeping on the injustices going on in the world today.  We are quick to put our minds on “Do not disturb” while major issues involving politics, racism, classism, sexism, and all the other “-isms” are going on daily and need to be addressed.  

One of the best places to start these conversations is with our young people.  I have worked in Black and Latino schools too afraid to address a lot of the social, political, and economic issues going on in the communities of their own students.  It’s time to toss those age old textbooks that only focus on the slavery and immigrant narratives and focus on the rich, vibrant culture that exists in Black and Latino communities.  Let’s disturb and disrupt the current state of education and open the doors to providing students with education that is student centered, provides real world experiences, and empowers students to go forth and do great things.  The children are the future...let’s make sure they are not set to “Do Not Disturb” forever.