“What does queer theory have to do with teaching science in elementary schools and preparing elementary teachers to teach science?” This is a question I am often asked by colleagues, teachers, and graduate students. The question, while genuine, betrays an underlying disconnect between assimilationist perspectives focused on injustices experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people in schools and the queer theory effort to disrupt the categories that privileges heteronormative identities. The question also betrays the tendency to link sexuality with the act of sex and sexual object choice and an uncomfortableness with bringing sexual taboo topics into the elementary classroom. In this talk I will address these concerns by exploring how queer theory can be a useful tool for re-imagining elementary science education and elementary science teacher preparation. I will focus on three areas: Adding strand for the “Feeling for the Organism” into the Next Generation Science Standards, inviting sexuality into the elementary science classroom, and disrupting preservice elementary teachers’ science teacher identities. I conclude that queering elementary science and science teacher preparation has the potential to release elementary students and their teachers to love and learn science.
Kristin L. Gunckel is an associate professor of science education in the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Sociocultural Studies. Her research interests include preparing elementary teachers to teach science. She works with preservice teachers and classroom teachers to bring more science to elementary schools. Kristin is also interested in critical perspectives on the common discourse around teaching and learning science. Her use of queer theory stems from her desire to release science education from the straight-jacket of the dominant paradigm and open the elementary classroom to more interesting, inclusive, and powerful science education.
Questions for Prof. Gunckel? kgunckel[at]email.arizona.edu