STEM Opportunities for Underrepresented Populations with Dieuwertje Kast
STEM Programs Manager
Dieuwertje Kast is the STEM Programs Manager for the University of Southern California’s (USC) Joint Educational Project. Through her efforts, she has provided STEM instruction to over 23,000 underrepresented minority students, 600 educators, 20 school principals, and countless community members. She coordinates supplemental science lessons for K-5 across a gamut of schools through the Wonderkids and Young Scientists Programs, and teaches college-preparatory science classes to high school students through USC’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative, a college preparatory program for low-income youth.
Dieuwertje received her Bachelors of Science in Biology, Masters in Science in Marine Environmental Biology in 2011, and her Masters in Arts and Teaching with Single Subject Science credential in 2014. She was trained as a marine biologist but noticed inequities at the faculty level when it came to women being represented and valued for their work. On the other hand, she had fantastic mentors in ocean education that truly supported her growth and saw her potential. These ladies included: Lynn Whitley, Linda Chilton, Lorraine Sadler, Terri Bidle and Dena Deck.
She now wants to share these concepts with others and consequently has presented dozens of STEM- and NGSS-based professional development sessions to pre-service and in-service educators both in schools and at local, national and international conferences. She is also a marine biology instructor for the Ernest Everett Just Youth Science Program, which is designed to expose dozens of minority students to careers and academic pursuits STEM careers and is dedicated to Dr. Ernest Everett Just, a pioneering African American biologist, who received international acclaim for work in marine biology.
During the summer, Dieuwertje is an instructor for the USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative and teaches an ocean research methods course. Students learn introductory ocean research skills and test them out at the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies. Their projects then culminate in a research poster that they present to the rest of the class. Out on Catalina, many students see the ocean for the first time and almost all of the participating students have their first snorkeling experience. This class, besides being a passion project with her background in marine biology, is addressing the systematic problem of swimming being an access issue. In order to teach their kids how to swim, families would have to pay for access to a pool (gym membership, etc.) as well as an instructor, and these luxuries are not able to be prioritized for low-income families who are trying to put food on the table.
Her educational philosophy is focused on hands-on, inquiry-based and authentic STEM learning experiences. This passion for STEM education is reflected not only in her work but also with her science-themed wardrobe that she wears to all her teaching and community events! Her dresses are themed to the science being taught to inspire all participating stakeholders.
Dieuwertje is also the Expanding Audiences Committee chair for NMEA. A strategic goal of NMEA is to increase the number of members who represent and/or educate underrepresented minorities including, but not limited to people of color, indigenous people, island people, international communities, inland areas, and English-language learners. As part of the committee, we are working to bring in more diverse audiences.If you are interested in working with the Expanding Audiences Committee, contact DJ for more information!