STEM Teacher Training in Central Washington StateBy Diana Wehrell-Grabowski on October 23, 2012 in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education, Teacher Training Workshops
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.