Henderson Middle student’s project celebrates diversity

One DeKalb County School District (DCSD) student has proven she can talk the talk and walk the walk when it comes to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

Her secret? Promoting diversity as vehicle to change the world for the better.

Henderson Middle School seventh grader Eliana Marcus was recently named the 2018 STEMTalk winner in the middle school category by the Georgia Science Teachers Association. Marcus’s presentation, titled “Cooperation & Diversity on Every Scale,” earned her a first-place finish on a year themed to the benefits of teamwork, diversity, and accomplishment.

“When teams from various backgrounds, cultures, race gender, age, and other characteristics work together on a challenge, they can achieve better outcomes,” reads the 2018 STEMTalk prompt. “Discuss a time in your life when you worked on a diverse team in the context of STEM. How did diversity impact your team? What did you learn from the experience? What did your team accomplish?”

Eliana MarcusMarcus’s project details a time where she and two classmates completed a science fair project. She said three different perspectives made the project unique and all-encompassing—a fact that is often mirrored in nature.

“I was always fascinated by what we couldn’t see: the stars, the cells, the galaxies, bacteria—I could never understand how they could succeed,” states Marcus about her project. “After doing a science fair project where we were three people, with three different backgrounds, from three different countries, with three different ideas, I was able to understand how things succeed on every scale: they use their diversity to their advantage.”

According to Marcus, planets, galaxies, bacteria and other organisms use their diversity and different characteristics to support life. Humans, she said, would benefit from doing the same.

“Humans need to combine their ideas and knowledge and work together no matter how alike or different you are from each other,” she said. “We evolved to work together, not against each other.”

In her project, Marcus is quick to note how even the smallest particles can have a large impact on planetary life.

“We realized an important life lesson in STEM and in life: that diversity is an advantage and not a disadvantage,” Marcus stated. “Planets work together to achieve the perfect balance of gravity and inertia to support life. Galaxies do the same. No planet or galaxy is like the other, but they all need each other to succeed. Planets use their differences to their advantage. On the small scale, bacteria work with your body every day to digest food and complete important tasks.”

According to Marcus, humans did not evolve to be solitary creatures, but pack animals built to work together. She said we need to combine our ideas to achieve.

“By doing this, we can change the world!” Marcus concludes.

Marcus’s win is the second consecutive win for Henderson Middle School. As the statewide winner, Marcus was honored in October 2018 at the Georgia STEM/STEAM Forum in Athens.

You can view Marcus’s complete project below.