Just back from conducting science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teacher training in rural central Washington State at Vista Hermosa Elementary School. Twelve teachers including the principal, and the before and after-school coordinator attending the STEM training. We began the session with discussing the importance of critical thinking skills in the STEM classroom. What teaching and learning methods allow for developing and strengthening critical thinking and problem-solving skills in students. Teachers were introduced to reflective journaling, and were asked to journal throughout the training session. We ventured outside to observe patterns and shapes in nature and man-made objects to make connections to one of the foundational concepts of STEM education: Structure and Function. Teachers were asked to make observations, draw and reflect in their journals. Before venturing inside each teacher was asked to share their observations, and journals were exchanged for peer-review. I stress incorporating peer-review of journals within the K-12 classroom for a variety of reasons. Through peer-reviewing journals, students learn from one another, aids in communication and collaboration, in addition peer review of notebooks helps to keep students on task. We ventured back into the classroom where we spent several hours implementing the engineering design process via conducting hands-on-minds-on investigations to explore: math and architecture, bridge building, force, motion, and energy concepts, reverse engineering, seed dispersal and aeronautical design, and lastly designing and building lunar modules that had to stay afloat on top of a unique non-Newtonian planetary surface made of cornstarch and water. The modules had to carry a mass load as well without sinking. As always I end my sessions with asking teachers to share how their thinking has been transformed due to their participating in my STEM teacher training session. From implementing reflective journaling, to using the school grounds as a learning environment, creating a student-driven classroom vs. teacher driven, conducting investigations rather than just a bunch of fun activities, allowing students time to think and explore concepts. It was a great group of teachers, who are truly motivated and dedicated to the children who attend the small rural school. I for see in the very near future students actively engaged in exploring STEM concepts via conducting hands-on-minds-on investigations that have real-world application and meaning to the students and community. Check out the slide-show below depicting some of the STEM investigations teachers carried out.
Archive for October, 2012
Conducted Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) teacher training recently at a charter school in Florida. Each training session was three hours in length, just enough time to introduce the teachers to hands-on-minds-on STEM investigations that help to develop and strengthen critical thinking skills in students. My goal is to present to the teachers that they can use inexpensive, readily available, and even recyclable items to teach STEM concepts. From using the school yard, campus architecture, playgrounds as tools to develop critical thinking skills in their students. During this STEM training teachers ventured outside to make observations of shapes and patterns in nature and man-made objects. Teachers took notes via a reflective journaling style, and also shared their notes via peer review. Peer review of student journals is a great way for students to learn from each other, as well as keep students on task. If you know your notes are going to be reviewed by your peers the student is more likely to put effort into their observations, data collection etc.. The session continued with teachers using a variety of wood blocks to build free-standing structures, using levels, digital balances, and rulers in their construction. It was then onto ramp science. Teachers were given a wide variety of materials to construct ramps with including upholstery tubes, insulation tubes, Hot Wheel tracks, tape, and marbles. Teachers designed, constructed, and tested their ramps employing the engineering design process throughout the investigation. During the second session 4th-8th grade teachers were introduced to biomimicry, mathematics and architecture concepts, bridge building, using toys to teach force, motion, and energy concepts, reverse engineering, and states of matter. As always it was a great group of teachers, they left the STEM training motivated with turn-key ready STEM investigations, and perhaps a new outlook on how they can modify their current teaching practices to ensure that students are developing their critical thinking skills. Check out the photos of the STEM teacher training session.