As public institutions begin to stagger in ensuring comprehensive lesson plans, history and STEM-focused public education organizations, museums, and other institutions in the state have been imbued with greater value following both changes made by the Texas School Board and rising political tensions in the state.
In Texas, resistance to both comprehensive lessons on climate science and critical race theory (CRT) have potential to obstruct students from receiving as extensive of an education that may be provided in other states.
Publicly held and nonprofit spaces across Dallas offer kids a fuller perspective on specialized subjects. Aside from the most prominent examples such as the Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Arboretum Children’s Garden, and the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, others like the African-American Museum and STEM Center of Excellence at Camp Whispering Cedars offer a conducive learning environment directly to South Dallas.
The African-American Museum in Dallas is a valuable resource for a fuller perspective of Black history pre and post-colonization of Africa. Holding the largest collection of art with cultural and historical significance to the Black experience with an exhibit that collectively spans over centuries.
Ongoing exhibits such as Facing the Rising Sun, an exhibit exploring the history behind Freedman’s Town, a Black community-driven town sitting at the current site of Uptown Dallas. Interactive video kiosks allow visitors of the museum to see and hear firsthand accounts from community members recounting details of day-to-day life in Freedman’s Town as well as the location’s transformation into what it is today.
Other mainstays include the Billy R. Allen Folk Art Collection, which includes over 500 objects contributed by Dr. Warren and Sylvia Lowe of Louisiana, and Dallasites Sally Griffiths and Dr. Bobby Alexander. Artists include Reverend Johnnie Swearingen, Clementine Hunter, David Butler, Sister Gertrude Morgan, among others.
The African-American Museum also has cycling exhibits, previously hosting “Black Cowboys: An American Story,” and The 27th Carroll Harris Simms National Black Art Competition and Exhibition. Currently, the African-American Museum is hosting exhibits #SeeOurFuture (curated by Laurie Ann Farrell), including visual documentation of a forgotten history with works created in South Africa between 1948 and 2020.
Over the years, Girl Scouts have taken a leading role in the greater inclusion of young girls in the field of STEM. Open to the public for the first time this last summer, the STEM Center of Excellence at Camp Whispering Cedars in South Dallas provides tools to absorb both hard and soft skills crucial to advancing in the field with an education applicable in even collegiate or work environments.
Providing a full lab and curated programs that are as engaging and dynamic as they are informative – and with Girl Scouts membership remaining largely affordable with a membership fee of $25 a year (plus council fees) – the STEM Center of Excellence is an important addition to the facilities at Camp Whispering Cedars.
Additionally, educational resources provided by community organizations, like Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center and the Juanita Craft House, give students a greater dimension and depth in their education that could become less commonplace in Texas schools. While Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center provides an exhibit that merges literary resources, Juanita Craft House is more immersive, provides narrative, and holds a distinct significance to the civil rights movement.
Test scores have almost completely recovered from the drop in satisfactory progress after the COVID-19 Pandemic Lockdown.
Following a considerable drop in academic success in 2020-2021 following the lockdown, changes made by the Texas School Board have the potential to hinder student success or at the very least depreciate the value of their education. While statistics have for the most part returned to pre-pandemic levels in the last school year, that progress is now threatened by disruption or the debasement of the substance of teaching.
While community and nonprofit resources are no replacement for a consistent education in the same way a food bank is not a replacement for a grocery store, it inspires hope that the community is willing to uphold the truer aspects of the past as well as offer a comprehensive and fact-based education. As state resources begin to shift priorities from public schooling, communities take on the daunting task of providing children with adequate understanding of both history and science.