This past April, Project Exploration had an amazing opportunity to be featured on our first Podcast! A couple of our favorite STEM Professionals, Bryant Williams (President at BK Environmental Industries) and Juanita Garcia (Founder of BIM for Better) recently began recording and curating a podcast channel called “Shades of Green”, dedicated to Chicago environmentalists! They’ve had amazing guests from all over Chicago, including key leaders from the Environmentalists of Color organization, talking about everything from environmental education, to climate change, to what Chicago is doing to make things more ‘green’ in our amazing city!
Kiara Byrd, Program Coordinator at Project Exploration and myself had the opportunity to sit down with Bryant and Juanita on April 3rd to share our passion for the environment and how that drives our work at Project Exploration. Since everyone was familiar with each other, we were able to jump right into the topic for the day! We started with a short history about Project Exploration, to inform the listeners about what we do on a daily basis and how both Kiara and I got involved. We also discussed what experiences led us to wanting to work in nonprofit, science education and with the diverse youth of Chicago. While my path to science and love of environmental science was very much shaped from my childhood experiences of being outside and being exposed to nature at an early age; Kiara shared that she really found her love of science once she had the opportunity to leave the city of Chicago and experience a more rural setting at her alma mater, Western Illinois University.
Since both Bryant and Juanita have been visitors to our programs, we also discussed our work with STEM Professionals and the importance of their role in our programs. We shared about our training and recruitment process, which includes preparing our STEM Professionals to discuss and share with our students about their career path and what led them to their particular specialty and position. This is a great way for the students to hear about what it takes and how struggles are just a part of finding your way!
With Bryant being a father of two young girls, we also dedicated part of our conversation to our programming with middle school girls and why it is important to focus on their STEM interests that that age. With a limited number of women in the STEM fields, it is difficult for girls in middle school to see themselves in those types of careers and the whole group agreed that it can really start with something as simple as the language we use to encourage our girls in school subjects. When a girl creates some new product or repurposes a generic product for a new use, she ends up being called ‘crafty’ while a boy may be called ‘industrious’. Difference usage of simple language begins to put girls in a specific mindset and guides them away from characteristics that would allow them to identify themselves as engineers or scientists.
We ended our conversation with something that Bryant and Juanita have termed as ‘DuSabling’. This refers to the original first permanent resident of Chicago, a Haitian man by the name of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable. It references the idea of ‘the act of taking it back and reclaiming something from a minority or indigenous group’. My example was related to public education and how teachers are starting to take back and speak out on the importance of public education, especially for the inner city; and Kiara’s example was related to women’s empowerment and supporting minority women in guiding them to recognize their potential and ability to do anything.
Overall, for being my first Podcast experience, it was a really great time! We appreciate the invitation from our colleagues Bryant Williams and Juanita Garcia to join them and participate in sharing our love of science, the environment, and education! Thank you!
Til next time!
Written by Jaclyn Carmichael, Program Director