iNviTechnology – Where education, innovation, entrepreneurship, and culture merge
Anjali will be working with iNviTechnology (iNviTECH) to design a 9-week ocean science summer camp curriculum for young students in grades K-6.
iNviTechnology (iNviTECH), is a Durham-based organization focused on correcting the underrepresentation of women and ethnic minorities in STEM fields by creating educational entrepreneurial programs to engage young children ages 0-5 and K-12 students. The organization was born of iNvictus Forward Outreach’s mission to create systemic change in access to STEM & Entrepreneurship opportunities for children of color. iNviTECH is comprised of three distinct programs, iNviTECH Playschool (for children birth–5), iNviTECH Clubhouse (for students 6–12), and iNviTECH iLab (for middle school, high school, and college aged students). As a DukeEngage fellow, my project is focused on creating a 9-week ocean science summer camp curriculum for iNviTECH Clubhouse students.
Growing up in Durham, N.C., I knew very little about the natural environment and virtually nothing about marine science. By the time I started to become conscious of environmental issues and discovered the field of marine science, I was a junior in high school. A few months later, when I was in the process of deciding if I should attend college to study marine science, I realized I did not know any marine scientists and could not find a marine scientist that looked like me. There was no one I could turn to to get advice, ask questions, or gather more information about the field, other than Google. Furthermore, Animal Planet, National Geographic, and even Google, struggled to show me any Black marine scientists, and as a result I began to think becoming a marine scientist was unrealistic. Luckly, my supportive parents, friends and family pushed me to attend Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL to study marine science.
It was during my first year of college, when I finally got to meet another Black marine scientist. Dr. Dominique Lazarre, she was an Eckerd alum who had recently completed her Ph.D. at the University of Miami and had returned to Eckerd to teach for the academic year. I latched on to Dr. Lazarre, and we began meeting almost on a weekly basis. It was the first time in my career where I could ask questions about what it was like being a Black marine scientist and gain information about the hurdles I would likely have to overcome. The relationship I developed with Dr. Lazarre served as a catalyst for my career in marine science. Dr. Lazarre helped me secure my first internship, connected me with other people of Color in the field, advised me as I navigated being the only Black student in all of my major classes, and always reassured me that I belonged, even when everything else about the field seemed to say the opposite. I have made it to this point in my career because of Black scientists and mentors, like Dr. Lazarre, and throughout my career I hope I can do the same for other students of Color.
iNviTECH’s mission is directly aligned with my personal commitment of increasing underrepresented minority (URM) participation in STEM fields. I previously worked with iNviTECH during college, as a Science Instruction for a 3-week summer camp program. It was my first time running a marine science focused program for students of Color, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences. Over the last four years, I have worked on a number of iNviTECH projects and programs, and I am extremely excited to now be developing a 9-week ocean science summer camp curriculum for iNviTECH Clubhouse.
Geosciences (e.g. marine science) are one of the least racially diverse STEM fields, with URM making up only 12.76% of graduate students in the field, according to 2018 data from NSF. The curriculum is designed to enhance awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the marine environment, by exposing K-6 students to various career paths in the aquatic sciences, pressing environmental problems, and ocean science research. In contrast with other ocean science camps and curriculum, most of which take place in coastal cities, are costly, and have low program diversity, our camp curriculum will focus on exposing a diverse population of students to the aquatic sciences. Students in the camp will come from a diversity of socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds, who may not otherwise be exposed to the aquatic sciences due to their geographic location. More specifically, we will be working with inner-city students in the Durham Public School System, with a particular focus on attracting students from schools with 75% of their student-body on a Free/Reduced Lunch program.
As a DukeEngage fellow, I hope to design an ocean science curriculum that is culturally relevant to students of Color, especially those who have limited access to the ocean. I am dedicated to ensuring that our science is 1) being shaped by individuals that reflect the diversity of our population and 2) is accessible and comprehensible to all, regardless of age, education level, geographic location, and socioeconomic status. My work with iNviTECH Clubhouse and the ocean science camp curriculum I will create are my first steps in ensuring my science is both diverse and accessible.