STEM Tuesday

STEM Tuesday — Diversity in STEM– Writing Tips & Resources



It’s needed everywhere and, in particular, it’s needed across the board in the STEM fields.

This month’s STEM Tuesday Writing Tips & Resource post is short and sweet. 

We need diverse talents and viewpoints to solve our problems. We need the collective brainpower. A toolbox limited to a single hammer can pound away but limits what can be accomplished. A variety of tools can handle so much more. It has unlimited potential.


2011 Presidential Award for Excellence in STEM Mentoring honorees. National Science Foundation, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Diversity has always played a role in STEM. We’ve been ingrained by media, myth, and selective memory to think of STEM as white and male by default. That is an error. A mistake of perception that we must fight through in order to discover the truth is much richer than the default myth. 

Throughout history, there are examples of how important diverse thought has been in the STEM fields. Just use this month’s STEM Tuesday — Diversity in STEM — Book List as a great jumping-off point. Pick a book. Any book. Dive in.

(Me? I’m going to start with, What Color Is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Kareem was one of my sports idols when I was a kid and his “second” career as an author takes his idol status to astronomical levels.

Creativity, innovation, and problem-solving are not unique to gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation.

Anyone can have ideas.

Anyone can come up with solutions.

Anyone can contribute their uniqueness in their unique way.

They just need a place at the table. Or lab bench. Or board room. Or design meeting. Or…


1947 Nobel Prize winners Gerty Theresa Radnitz Cori and Carl Ferdinand Cori. Smithsonian Institution from United States, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal opportunity sports enthusiast, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports/training-related topics at and writer stuff at  www.mikehaysbooks.comTwo of his science essays, The Science of Jurassic Park and Zombie Microbiology 101, are included in the Putting the Science in Fiction collection from Writer’s Digest Books. He can be found roaming around the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64 and Instagram at @mikehays64.


The O.O.L.F Files

This month’s version of the O.O.L.F.(Out of Left Field) Files highlights resources toward training a diverse workforce for the STEM fields. 

Higher Education

The college I work at is doing good work when it comes to developing a more diverse STEM field. Here are a couple of the programs at Kansas State University.

PEW Research Report 2021

The State of STEM Education

An interesting 2020 paper from the International Journal of STEM Education

EiE’s list of organizations working to promote Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) excellence in STEM

An analysis of current STEM workforce and education data from Thomas Insights

Why STEM Diversity Matters from Wired

Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna shared the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for one of the most powerful molecular discoveries ever, Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, or CRISPR for short. CRISPR vaulted gene-editing technologies into high gear.


STEM Tuesday — Diversity in STEM– In the Classroom

I read the following two books from our monthly booklist:

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgInspiring African-American Inventors: 9 Extraordinary Lives
by Jeff C.Young

This book follows the lives and achievements of nine African-American inventors. These write-ups were more in depth than those in the other collections I read. There were lots of links to resources provided in the book; however, it seemed like many of them are no longer active.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgWhat Color Is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors
by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld,
illustrated by Ben Boos and A.G. Ford

This book is a combination of fiction and nonfiction. While it gives rather brief write-ups for the inventors mentioned, it does a nice job of addressing why diversity in STEM is important.

I also read these two books:

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgUnsung Heroes of Technology
by Todd Kortemeier

This book gives an overview of 12 scientists, mathematicians, and/or inventors whose contributions to STEM have often been overlooked. The majority of the people highlighted in this book are women and/or African-Americans.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgStephen Hawking: Master of the Cosmos
by Robert Sneddon

This graphic novel follows the life and scientific contributions of Stephen Hawking. While still in college, Hawking was diagnosed with a disease that confined him to a wheelchair for much of his life. Hawking contributed greatly to our understanding of the universe and was able to communicate many of these ideas to average readers.

I felt a strong connection to this month’s theme. My years studying and working in engineering had me facing a lack of diversity in STEM on a very personal level. In college, I met the first woman to graduate from my alma mater. In school and while working, I was the only woman in a room full of men on many an occasion. Our family is full of neurodivergents and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Recently, I went through training to become a counselor for BSA’s Citizenship in Society merit badge.

Here are some activities to consider when tying this month’s books to the classroom.

Explore Identities

This month’s theme is “Diversity in STEM.” But what is diversity? Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines it as, “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements.” In terms of people, what are the differing elements?

Most often, diversity in STEM (or any other organization/discipline) focuses primarily on race, gender, and sometime sexuality. But there is so much more to it than that. If we start looking at what makes up a person’s identity, the possible factors seem almost limitless. (There’s an interesting, short write-up about identity in Sydney University’s 2019 Anthology here:

Have students define some aspects of their own identities.
(For help in defining some of these, there’s a great write-up from Appalachian State here:


If you want to include even more aspects of identity in this exercise, go ahead. When we factor in all the different things that make up who we are and compare those with others, we find out we are much more alike than we might assume upon first glance.

Once students have defined some parts of their own identities, have them find a scientist/inventor/mathematician highlighted in this month’s reading (or in one of the links below) who has an identity that matches them. Then have them read about someone who seems very different.

Have a discussion or have students write their thoughts on the following:
– How does it make them feel to learn about amazing achievements by someone who shares similar identities with them?
– Do they feel any differently about those whose identities are very different from their own?
– Why do they think it’s important to have diversity in STEM?

Explore How Progress in STEM Works

In What Color is My World?, Mr. Mital talks about scientific knowledge as being handed from person to person like a bucket brigade.

Set up your own bucket brigade. Line students up around the room. Then have them pass something from person to person – it doesn’t have to be a bucket. In fact, a book might be more appropriate, since STEM is all about passing knowledge and ideas from person to person.

Once you’ve had the students pass the scientific knowledge (book, bucket, whatever) successfully down the line, take a few people out of the line. All the other students should stay in their positions – they should not move closer together to fill the gaps.

Have them pass the scientific knowledge along the line again. What happens when it gets to the gaps in the line? Think about/discuss how this relates to diversity in STEM.

If you don’t have enough people to conduct this activity, try creating a domino train/fall ( Remove a few dominoes from different locations to see how that changes things.

Discover More

Since a lot of the links given in the books I read didn’t work, I decided to dig up a few more. Here are some links to a variety of people who made inspiring contributions in STEM fields but are either from underrepresented communities and/or their contributions are largely unsung. You will find many of the people covered in the books among those listed on the web sites.

This article was written in relation to What Color is My World?:

Native American Scientists and Engineers:

12 Disabled Scientists Who Made the World a Better Place:

Hispanic Scientists and Engineers:

Inspiring Scientists and Engineers to Know – Asian American Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month:

6 Important LGBTQ Scientists Who Left a Mark on STEM Fields:

LGBTQ+ scientists in history:

Unsung innovators of color:

10 Black Inventors Who Changed the World:

NASA’s Innovators and Unsung Heroes:

Author Janet Slingerland Janet Slingerland has written more than 20 books for children. To find out more about Janet and her books, check out her website – – or visit her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

STEM Tuesday– Diversity in STEM– Book List

These books introduce scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and inventors who are largely overlooked. And too often, because of their race or gender, even their residency status, they don’t even get credit for their work.


Scientists Who Changed History by DK

Using a fun set-up beginning with a quotation and list of milestones and including intriguing spot and profile illustrations, an insert about a competitor or subsequent scientist, and a big, bold sidebar of accomplishments, this book examines 86 scientists from the astronomer and mathematician Thales of Milatues (624-546 B.C.E) to computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee (present). Broken into seven time periods, each section also includes a “directory” and brief bios of 13 other scientists from that time. A wonderful examination through time and across the globe of both well-known and forgotten scientists.

Stolen Science: Thirteen Stories of Scientists and Inventors almost Written Out of History by Ella Schwartz

This book presents biographies of scientists and inventors whose stories have been forgotten or outright ignored by history. Too often, due to their race, gender, even residency status, credit for their discoveries were given to other people. Sidebars offer deep dives into the science and technology.

The Secret Lives of Scientists, Engineers, and Doctors. Volume 1&2 by Faisal Hossain

Brief introductions to current STEM professionals, many written in first person, about the inspiration or experiences that spurred them into their research and careers. Includes a note of where they are working or researching.

Inspiring African-American Inventors: 9 Extraordinary Lives by Jeff C.Young

Spanning from 1848 to 2008, each of the biographies contains a “Lifeline” with key moments, discoveries, and for some posthumous awards. Portraits, invention diagrams, and period ads help round out an honest evaluation of their lives, creativity, and societal struggles. A list of “report links,” detailed chapter notes, and further reading make this a great place to begin research.

Brilliant African-American Scientists:9 Exceptional Lives by Jeff C. Young

Following a similar format, this book examines scientists from the 18th to 20th centuries who influenced astronomy, space telescopes, blood & plasma storage, biology, physics, developing computer science, and chemotherapy. It is also a straightforward presentation that could encourage further research.

What Color Is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Set within the framework of a fictional story of two twins, eleven fold-out flaps contain brief facts about inventors, their creations, and their influence on today’s society. Additionally, the book takes a more in-depth look at the life and discoveries of Lewis Howard Latimer, James E. West, Frederick McKinley Jones, Dr. Percy Lavon Julian, and Garrett Morgan. Sources and further information round out this fun exploration of important history.

A Native American Thought of It: Amazing Inventions and Innovations by Rocky Landon

Opening with a map of Traditional Native American territories, this informative, photo-illustrated book examines the shelters, modes of hunting & fishing, preparing food & clothing, medicine, transportation, communication, and games created by the various tribes many of which have continued or inspired current actions or inventions. It includes a brief look at Native Americans today, native languages, and further readings.

1001 Inventions and Awesome Facts from Muslim Civilization: Official Children’s Companion to the 1001 Inventions Exhibition (National Geographic Kids)

A cursory, but extensive, examination, from the 7th century into the 20th century, of the astrological, mathematical scientific and medical discoveries, as well as the musical, farming, games, and school creations that have been made by Muslim scientists and individuals. A fun map of highlights functions as a great “table of contents” and the section formats are highly visual and snippet oriented. A wonderful collection of facts and individuals.


Benjamin Banneker by Heather Lehr Wagner

Born in 1731, Banneker was a free Black man who worked his own farm. A curious child, he studied nature and wildlife and was fascinated by mechanics. He built a clock after taking a pocket watch apart. Later, he helped survey land that would become District of Columbia. This biography does not sidestep issues of race and forced labor.

Who was George Washington Carver? by Jim Gigliotti

Carver was born to enslaved parents near the end of the Civil War. He was curious and hungry for education, which he achieved despite racism and Jim Crow laws. He taught at Tuskegee College, where he developed products that used peanuts (glue, dye, plastic) – but not peanut butter!

Daniel Hale Williams: Surgeon Who Opened Hearts and Minds written and illustrated by Mike Venezia

Williams, known for ground-breaking heart surgery, began his medical career as a doctor’s assistant – a tough job in the later 1800s. After graduating from medical college, he discovered no hospital would accept a black doctor. When local hospitals refused to take his patients, he started his own hospital, a non-segregated institution that also provided training for black nurses and doctors.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

William Kamkwamba opens with life in Malawi: a mix of magic and science. His curiosity led him to fixing radios, a library, and eventually books about generating energy. As draught brings famine and death to the area, he builds a windmill to pump water for crops and produce electricity. A fun and inspiring read for kids (and adults).

Al-Khwarizmi : the inventor of algebra by Corona Brezina

This book shows Al-Khwarizmi the scholar: an astronomer, mathematician, geographer. His purpose was to help people solve math dilemmas in their everyday lives. In addition to developing algebra, he helped chart the course of planets, mapped the earth, and introduced the system of numbers we use today.


“Asian American scientists in STEM classrooms: increasing inclusion and visibility”

“The Secret Lives of Scientists and Engineers”


STEM Tuesday book list prepared by:

Sue Heavenrich writes about science for children and their families, from space to backyard ecology. Bees, flies, squirrel behavior—things she observes in her neighborhood and around her home—inspire her writing. Visit her at

Maria Marshall is a children’s author, blogger, and poet passionate about making nature and reading fun for children. When not writing, critiquing, or reading, she bird watches, travels the world, bakes, and hikes. Visit her at