Carolyn Boiarsky

English Department Professor @ Purdue University Northwest-Hammond Campus

Presentation Title: INTEGRATING STEM WITH AN ENGLISH/LANGUAGE ARTS CURRICULUM: Making Literature and Composition Relevant to STEM Students

Abstract: While STEM has become an important aspect of a school curriculum, little has been done to integrate the topics it encompasses and the formats in which it is communicated into English courses. STEM-related literature can complement and humanize the study of science and technology. Literature provides the stories that connect STEM studies to the world and to the individuals affected by them. It is literature that makes the facts, algorithms, taxonomies and formula that students learn in their STEM courses come alive and assume faces and histories that can be comic, tragic or heroic. Many science fiction, spy novels and mysteries, and nonfiction narratives, are concerned with topics covered in a STEM curriculum. These include non-fiction narratives like David McCullough’s Johnstown Flood and Rebecca Skloot’s The Secret Life of Henrietta Lacks which is fictionalized by Michael Chrichton in Next. Other traditional literary works also relate to STEM topicsm such as Emily Dickenson’s Riddles and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October provides an excellent explanation of nuclear power and T.E. Lawrence:s (Lawrence of Arabia) The Mint and Robert Persig’s Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance discuss the technological as well as the aesthetic aspects of motorcycles. Today’s focus in composition is on the “argumentative” essay, based on non fiction sources and requiring critical thinking. STEM documents, such as the “white paper” and the “proposal,” meet these objectives. This presentation will discuss how STEM topics and documents can be integrated into the English curriculum without altering present Literature and Composition objectives. The presentation will provide examples of STEM composition assignments that reflect the composition genres tradittionally being taught and will demonstrate how various literary works can be refocused to examine STEM concepts.

Biography: Carolyn Boiarsky is a Professor of English at Purdue University Northwest, Hammond, Indiana. Associated with the National Writing Project since 1978, she is presently the Director of the Northwest Indiana Writing Project, and was the founder of the Southeast Center for the Teaching of Writing/Georgia State University from 1978-81. She has authored two books related to education, Academic Literacy in the English Classroom and The Art of Workplace English, both published by Boynton/Cook/Heinemann. Dr. Boiarsky has made numerous presentations at the annual conferences of NCTE. She received her Ph.D. in English Education from Georgia State University in 1984.