Photo of Megan Bang

CREATE is delighted to welcome Dr. Megan Bang as the keynote speaker for the 2023 Mini-Conference!

Towards STEM Education that Contributes to Just & Sustainable Life

Abstract: The complex intertwining of human systems and natural systems are increasingly visible as societies are grappling with profound issues like racial justice, public health, and economics, amidst and shaped by rapidly shifting ecological systems and changing climates. Given these realities, what kinds of education do we need for human worlds and natural worlds to be generatively intertwined such that justice and sustainability are achievable? What kinds of knowledge, reasoning, and decision-making do we need to cultivate? What forms of political and ethical sensibilities do we need? In this talk I present two participatory design-based research projects that have been cross-pollinating to develop models of interdisciplinary field-based science education that are grounded in cultivating socio-ecological systems understandings and decision-making and that take seriously historically powered dynamics of education and of science. I explore the kinds of curricular tools and pedagogical practices utilized and enacted in these learning environments that support more rigorous and just forms of teaching and learning. I argue that children across cultural communities can and do engage in robust learning that also supports culturally thriving and just forms of education. However, there are important and persistent challenges and the reproduction of colonial and racialized dynamics that must be deliberately engaged and prioritized.

Bio:  Megan Bang (Ojibwe and Italian descent) is a Professor of the Learning Sciences at Northwestern University and is currently serving as the Director of the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research. Dr. Bang studies foundational dynamics of culture, learning, and development across the life course particularly with respect the natural world. She has been especially interested in knowledge organization, reasoning, and decision-making about complex socio-ecological systems and their intersections with identity, cultural variation, history and power. In her work these issues are central to the challenges of the 21st century, such as climate change, adaptation, and sustainability, as well as the kinds of social and civic relations intertwined with these issues. She utilizes this foundational work towards improving STEAM education prek-16 in formal and informal learning environments. Further she brings these programs into teacher education programs as well as educational leader preparation programs. She has been especially focused on regenerating Indigenous systems of education for the 21st century. She currently has several major projects across multiple states developing Indigenous STEAM learning environments and professional learning opportunities as well as a multi-state project developing inter-disciplinary place based education for pk-5 students in schools called Learning in Places. Dr. Bang served as the Senior Vice President of the Spencer Foundation and is currently the senior advisor to the foundation. She is also a Mellon Distinguished Scholar in Center for Imagination in the Borderlands at Arizona State University. Dr. Bang is a member of the National Academies of Education and a member of the Board of Science Education at the National Academy of Sciences.  Megan is a mother, auntie, grandmother, sister, daughter, cousin and partner. Her heart work is to help cultivate mino-bimaadiziwin.