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Support feelings of relatedness and belonging within the classroom community

Belonging Activities


In the following section, we provide multiple examples, options, and variations of activities and instructional strategies that are aligned with the Belonging MDP in order to be as comprehensive and specific as possible. However, this does not mean that teachers must use all of these strategies to enact the Belonging MDP, nor that these strategies are the only way to do so. We encourage teachers to use their professional discretion to select what will work best for them and their classrooms, and to modify and innovate on these strategies.

Because the five MDPs are synergistic, some activities found in this MDP overlap or align strongly with activities found in other MDP sections. This alignment is conveyed through color-coded dots in the activity-specific page (“Learn More”).

Ensure students feel recognized and welcomed
Include examples of scientists/engineers with diverse backgrounds in learning materials and/or classroom displays
Call on students and recognize student contributions in different ways (e.g., answering a question, posing a question from the Driving Question Board to frame discussion, etc.)
Daily check-ins: Spend a few minutes talking about non-school topics with a different student each day; follow up if you notice something is wrong
Acknowledge students who were absent (e.g., “we missed you yesterday”)
Emphasize that all experience is valuable and that diversity of ideas and experiences are assets by using protocols like Serial Testimony that allow students to share their perspectives without debate or critique
Work in small groups to build a team mentality and offer peer supports, whether for data collection, analysis, interpretation, model design, solution generating, etc.
  • Emphasize that collaboration leads to the best innovation
Think-pair-share and related protocols (e.g., inner-outer circle with rotating partners) give students an opportunity to build relationships with their peers in the classroom setting
Create an “I wonder” culture. For example, spend 5 minutes at the beginning of class (or at the end of the week) to choose and talk about one thing that students have identified wanting to learn more about
Display all student work with informational feedback instead of grades (e.g., “great display of shared ideas”)
Look for opportunities to integrate students’ cultural values and community history into the physical space of the science classroom. For example, in Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, Zaretta Hammond provides some ideas about classroom design
Provide resources that show scientists and engineers who reflect the demographics of your students. Include reading material, video, YouTube, speaking engagements, and diverse career fields in science. Celebrating Cultural Diversity from NSTA Press includes some ideas and considerations for teachers looking to incorporate more inclusive science teaching materials
Because teachers do not always know about different aspects of student identity or which aspects of identity are most important to students, include examples of scientists/engineers with diverse backgrounds in learning materials and/or classroom displays
Keep a compliment box where students can drop off compliments for their peers. The teacher can share these periodically with the recipients. #Remind students regularly to think about using this box, and to drop compliments off on the way out (or into) the classroom
Provide a “Could we change” box (strictly for science related content) to solicit questions that students are afraid to utter in class, or for concerns kids have about group work, or topics they'd like to explore, etc.
  • Make clear that anything personal or sensitive should come directly to the teacher as a personal conversation
Learn about equitable teaching practices for supporting a sense of community among diverse student cultures and identities. For example, in Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, Zaretta Hammond provides basic interactional tips called “Trust Generators” that support belonging and identification within the classroom’s community of science learners
Ice breakers help build relationships with peers and teachers
As a class, develop and enforce classroom rules to foster a community mindset and culture of respect being a shared responsibility. Encourage students to hold each other accountable
Devise meaningful group roles from which students can choose, so that all students feel they can contribute
Give all students opportunities to experience leadership, and show that you trust their abilities to lead, for example by asking them to lead you in the next step
Select volunteers daily to take attendance, pass out/pick up materials, be group notetakers
Identify a volunteer each day to be the notetaker for absent students that day and to brief the absent students upon return
Help students understand that their interests and values belong in science. For example, help a student see how their interest intersects with science and focus on the non-obvious (e.g., fashion uses science through textile development; baseball uses engineering to develop new equipment; etc.)
Coordinate opportunities for students to meet and/or observe professionals in science and engineering fields, allowing students to find commonalities between themselves and the professionals and to ask questions #Recognize the many different types of science careers, including careers that aren’t all Ph.D. oriented
Invite students into science through displays/school announcements/community learning opportunities that encourage participation in science
Ask students to apply science concepts to their lives outside of class and share their findings via journals, photos, videos, social media to create a sense of connection with each other
Consult resources on equitable teaching practices (e.g., anti-racist teaching) for additional ideas for talking to students about feelings of alienation that stem from systemic inequities
If a student says that not many people like them are scientists/engineers, acknowledge that the student may not have learned about it in school but that people of many different backgrounds have made important contributions to science. Give an example of a science/engineer the student can relate to and express a belief that the student can be successful in science
Encourage a student feeling alienated from science to start a science-based journal, scrapbook or other for recording thoughts and observations from outside the classroom that they can share with the teacher
Strategies and resources listed throughout this section that draw on equitable teaching frameworks (e.g., culturally responsive pedagogy) include Trust Generators, Serial Testimony, Celebrating Cultural Diversity from NSTA Press, and Zaretta Hammond’s classroom design ideas
Refer to the section “Motivation as a Tool for Equity in Science Instruction” for additional resources