Growing the Rhyme and Encouraging Imagination

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The following is an excerpt from STEM, STEAM, Make, Dream: Reimagining the Culture of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics by Christopher Emdin, Ph.D.

STEM, STEAM, Make, Dream: Reimagining the Culture of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics by Christopher Emdin, Ph.D.

A Dream Culture is a lived reality that privileges a way of thinking and doing that pushes the boundaries of normality by encouraging the imagination and manifesting what it produces. To hold a Dream Culture is to sit with and channel our values in such a way that a symbiotic community is created where all are given what they need to become the best they can be. To hold such a culture in STEM is to pursue a world where all can engage with and have a command of these subjects as they fully understand who they are (inherently ingenious by virtue of existing) and want to be (realizing the full potential of this inherent genius). 

A STEM Dream Culture pulses in transcendent rhythm, allowing members to freely explore their own dreams and how they can contribute to something greater than themselves. In the increasingly complex and global world we live in, comfort with and &uency in STEM are key to meeting the goal of contributing to something greater than ourselves. The core of Dream Culture is to activate our innate human instincts of ultrasociality—a unique and complex connection to one another enhanced in social spaces, such as classrooms, where we allow one another to fully be by welcoming expressions of culture in their varied forms. Ultrasociality thrives in classrooms where there is a beloved community. A beloved community, famously argued for by Martin Luther King Jr., is a space where justice, equal opportunity, and love of others, despite difference, are paramount. A STEM Dream Culture is the operationalizing of the concept of beloved community in pursuit of new languages that allow us all to comfortably enter new worlds.

A STEM Dream Culture is one in which the cultural norms are established by all those within the classroom and in which the rules of engagement are malleable. It is the recognition that for things to remain as they are is to subject someone to a reality they have had no part in creating and a world where they have been locked out. A Dream Culture is the exact opposite of the typical STEM culture we interrogated at the beginning of the book—a culture that tells someone that they are not a mathematician or scientist because who they are and how they engage in the world are not welcome in math or science.

The difference between a dream and a pipe dream in STEM is the work required to bring the vision to fruition. Dream Culture is the manifestation of dreams through the creation of norms that support more inclusive, engaging, and transformative STEM spaces, such as a maker- space, a collider classroom, or another space that values different cultural perspectives and provides the safety needed to experiment, make mistakes, and even fail. It is marked by classrooms with creative risk-taking, cooperative practice, collective citizenship, and cogenerative teaching experiences—a place where teachers and students co-construct an environment in which all are comfortable as they become their best selves.


Christopher Emdin, Ph.D., is the Robert A. Naslund Endowed Chair in Curriculum and Teaching and Professor of Education at the University of Southern California; where he also serves as Director of youth engagement and community partnerships at the USC Race and Equity Center. He previously served as Director of the Science Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University and alumni fellow at the Hip-hop archive and Hutchins Center at Harvard University. The creator of the #HipHopEd social media movement and Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S., Emdin has previously been named Multicultural Educator of the Year by the National Association of Multicultural Educators, STEM Access Champion of Change by the White House and Minorities in Energy Ambassador for the US Department of Energy. He is the author of STEM, STEAM, Make, Dream (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Ratchetdemic (Beacon Press), and For white folks who teach in the hood … and the rest of y’all too (Beacon Press).

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