Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

Kim Moldofsky is the publisher of The Maker Mom and STEM Kids Chicago.

National Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off September 15, 2017. The month-long celebration, which coincides with the independence day of several Latin American countries, was first implemented by President Reagan. It’s celebrated by many national agencies, including the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress and the National Park System. I hope it will be honored in science classes around the United States as well. Along those lines, I have a few resources to share. But first, some facts.

Hispanic Students and STEM

According to the US Department of Education:

Hispanics only earned 8% of STEM-related bachelor’s degrees and only 3% of doctorates between 2009 and 2010 even though they were 16% of the US population at that time. Given that Hispanic students are underrepresented in undergraduate and graduate programs, it may come as no surprise that Hispanics receive ‘insufficient” STEM exposure in their K-12 years.

Furthermore, according to a 2014 report* from the College Board, when it comes to enrollment in AP math and science classes, only 4 of 10 Hispanic students who showed potential for success enrolled in the classes.

Clearly, we have some work to do to bring opportunities in the STEM arena to our Hispanic students.

Hispanic Heritage in your Classroom

If you’re reading this, STEM education is probably a priority for you. Providing encouragement and support for your students, while maintaining high expectations is also helpful. No doubt you already do these things, right? Here are a few other ideas.

Provide your students with a diverse group of STEM heroes and role models

In March, I shared several “hidden figures” in STEM. My list of lesser known, but important, women in STEM included two inspiring Latinas: Dr. Ellen Ochoa and France Anne Cordova. This article shines the light on several more notable Hispanic scientists. And here are five more. (I’m especially keen on Ynes Mexia, who didn’t start her science career until she was in her fifties.)

Dive in

Have your students create their own set of South American-inspired Pan Pipes for a lesson in sound, pitch, and frequency

Peruse the Library of Congress’s Hispanic Heritage Month Pinterest page for inspiration.

Dip into statistics with these fun facts.

Explore a long history of engineering

The Incas (Inka) built impressive temples, roads, and bridges starting in the 13th century. Read up on their engineering feats with the help of resources from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

By educators, for educators

Listen to the story of one teacher who puts Hispanic physics students on the AP track and empowers them through physics.

Tap into local resources. Here in Chicago, we have the L@s GANAS program at the University of Illinois-Chicago, that provides speakers and field trips to inspire your students to someday pursue STEM degrees from a four-year university.

Solve a mystery

Explore the mystery of the Inca String writing.

Take it outside (the classroom)

Encourage all of your students to develop exciting STEM projects outside the classroom. Something to enter into the 2018 Young Scientist Challenge, perhaps?


*In 2015-16 the College Board changed their ethnic reporting options, so it will be difficult to compare future results to anything prior to that year.