Visibility in STEM: Use of Archive Data to Explore the Nature of Science and the Scientific Concepts in Charles Drew’s Scientific Contributions

The absence of the scientific contributions of African American scientists in any meaningful way that connects with the scientific concepts under study underplays the significance and relevance of the contributions of people of African origins to science. This workshop explores the contributions of Charles Drew, known as the “Father of Blood Bank,” as it relates to the Next Generation Science Standards’ (NGSS) disciplinary core ideas, nature of science, and argumentation. An exploration activity is created using archived data and documents of Charles Drew from Howard University’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center. This inquiry uses the 5E model to explore scientific concepts relevant to Charles Drew’s work. The scientific considerations that went into Charles Drew’s development of blood banks as we know it today will be explored and discussed. Handson tasks include both inquiry and engineering design activities that support the NGSS. As one possible example, participants will engage in an argumentation exercise, using data on blood, that was indicative of the time that Charles Drew advocated for the use of the Blood of African Americans to help in the war effort.

Background information
The prevalent use of the biographies of African American scientists and their accomplishments in history and social studies classes have provided an important place for the contributions of African American scientists. However, the absence African Americans from STEM textbooks often seem to understate the significance and relevance of the accomplishments, so much so that any familiarity with the works of African American scientists is “history” and not scientific, as if to say they could not serve as exemplars to understanding specific science concepts. In the study of cells, textbooks infuse the observations of Robert Hooke, Antoine van Leuwenhoek even if to mention that the work of one confirmed the work of the other or that Matthias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann concluded that plants and animals, respectively, are made of cells. However, the similar texts such as the biology textbook, Inquiry into Life (Mader, 2008), might discuss blood along with relevant and current issues such as immunization but no mention of blood banks, or texts such as Applied Anatomy and Physiology. A Case Study Approach (Shmaefsky, 2013) might use the word “blood donation” (p. 431), but again no mention of the African American scientist, Charles Drew, who is known as the “Father of Blood Bank” (

Overview of workshop
Preliminary reading of Charles Drew’s archived publications and dissertation show the science behind his scientific exploration of ‘ “Banked Blood” A study in Blood Preservation,’ which is the title of his dissertation. His work has implications for various concepts in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Consequently, when he was asked to apply his understandings to spearhead the Blood Bank effort during wartime, his work has implications for the use of engineering design and thus for various areas of STEM in addition to biology. As one small example, the ion content of blood which affects osmotic pressure, blood preservation and other connections were considered.

This workshop will use the 5E model in a lesson that explores the data, biography, articles and other archived materials from Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University, Washington DC, from the collection available on the NIH U.S. National Library of Medicine as well as found in Howard’s archives. Connections to the Next Generation Science Standards such as the relevant disciplinary core ideas, understandings of the nature of science, and argumentation activities will be included in this workshop.

Length/nature of workshop. 2 hour workshop. Powerpoint presentation and exploration in a hands-on and interactive workshop that begins by exploring data and continues with an engineering design activity.

Focus of science teacher education. This workshop can be tailored various grades for the preparation of preservice teachers and the use of culturally relevant science. More specifically this workshop addresses the lack of equity in the science curriculum as it pertains to making people of African origins visible in the STEM curriculum. Current developments in our society shows that this is very important in ensuring that generations understand the context, relevance, and extent of the scientific contributions of people of African descent, particularly African Americans who have thrived in science despite opposition and despite history. This means addressing what exactly was the science that was being studied by various African Americans.

Experience of workshop presenter. As a second year, Assistant Professor in STEM Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, I have spent a great deal of time, 16 years, teaching biology (general and anatomy & physiology), environmental science, and chemistry in the K-12 setting (high school), (some physics). Thus, my work reflects my focus on what is practical for the classroom teacher. This includes my involvement in preservice students and in professional development for inservice Washington DC teachers. Combined with my experience, the challenge to not simply celebrate people of African origins during Black History month and the challenge to even consider how to integrate the importance of the contributions of Blacks into the science concepts, has been one that has plagued me as a practitioner in K-12. This meant investing the time to create relevant curriculum materials. Now as an Assistant Professor, I have decided that this is one of my main goals. A profile of my content knowledge and pedagogy is seen in my content and pedagogy based publications available in my profile at

This journey to create curriculum materials began with the creation of African Art Image Analysis for the 2018 ASTE conference workshop titled: “Making People of African Origins Visible in the STEM Curriculum: An Exploration into the Science and History of African Rock Art and Reverse Engineer and History of Benjamin Banneker” proposal. The curriculum resources, powerpoints, handouts, are available on the website: (select African Art Image Analysis on the top). Further development continued with a professional development and a STEM awareness video (on right of webpage). This year I plan to create and make available resources for presentation as I did last year. My goal in this presentation is to create and make the curriculum materials available for implementation, even as I continue to develop them afterwards.

Please see image below for feedback on last year’s implementation:

Learning Objectives:
Participants will become knowledge of the scientific contributions of Charles Drew.
Participates will extend the scientific contributions to disciplinary core ideas and scientific practices in the NGSS.
Participants will relate the scientific contributions to specific science content being taught at the K-12 level.
Participates will explore, plan, and design an activity that helps them apply principles used to evaluate the creation of biotechnology such as the blood bank in designing a small task.
Discussion about other possible connections to other disciplinary core ideas, reflection on the lesson, and suggestions for improvements and implementations will be discussed.
Participants will be referred to the website where a page with the resources will be made available in time for the conference and where they can offer valuable feedback after implementation and where they can contact me with further questions/suggestions.

Instructional Strategies:
I usually use an exploratory, interactive, socratic, investigative type of presentation style, giving information when needed. In this case, background information on who Charles Drew is and his accomplishments in relation to the exploratory activity into the data he has collected and/or generated. Participants carry out the activities as if they are the students and then we discuss it as if they are the instructors. Feel free to look at the powerpoint presentation on the last presentation, where a link for feedback on implementation is also provided. Participant responses and feedback to the last presentation led me to prematurely launch the site to make the resources available, as requested. Participant discussion and formative feedback provides useful information on the usefulness and interest in the presentation.