Posts Tagged ‘STEM teacher training’


Had the pleasure of being part of the Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota 2017 Conference in January. I presented two 1.5 hour STEM-based sessions. Early STEM Education Consultant Dr. Diana Wehrell-Grabowskichildhood teachers were introduced to STEM practices and content via conducting hands-on-minds-on, inquiry-based explorations.

There was plenty of room to explore, build, and move about with the workshops being held in the cafeteria. Ramps made out of insulation tubing, wood corner molding, upholstery tubing, string and tape were built from one end of the cafeteria to the other.

During the 1.5 hour session early childhood teachers were introduced to incorporating journaling in the early childhood classroom. I stressed the need to avoid the “typical” handouts of cut outs, tracing, and pasting. Instead, provide opportunities for children to do their own scribbling, attach specimens within their journals, and more. This journal is meaningful to the student, and is all about student-ownership.

Teachers had the opportunity to use recyclable and readily available materials to build 3-D structures of their choice. Working in small groups mini-playgrounds, homes, bridges and more were built.

Teachers were also introduced to incorporating a “tinkering” center within their classroom where young children can touch, observe, analyze, and take things apart. If possible, even try and put the objects back together. The process of tinkering is the foundation of creating young engineers. We all know the relative that took everything apart, tinkered and such they went onto become an engineer.

With the emphasis on incorporating STEM experiences in the early childhood classroom and beyond, many children’s authors have written well-crafted STEM-based books appropriate for the early childhood classroom +. Teachers were introduced to approximately 50 children’s books with STEM themes, a couple of my favorites “Iggy Peck the Architect” and the “Three Little Pigs, an Architectural Tale”.

Teachers were also introduced to incorporating appropriate technology for young learners. The “t” in STEM includes any tool a student puts in their hand to gather more data, and find out about the world around them. Teachers used levels, rulers, magnifying lenses, eye loupes, Fisher Price Code-A-Pillar, and more.

A major focus of the early childhood STEM workshop was to incorporate the 21st century skills within STEM lessons and across the curriculum. Teachers need to strive to develop lessons and a classroom environment that nurtures and strengthens 21st century skills which include: creativity and innovation, critical thinking and innovation, communication and collaboration.

As always it was a great session, teachers left the workshop motivated, and so many stated that they were going to be incorporating many of the STEM explorations and practices they had seen during the training within their classroom. As I’ve said before “it’s never to early to incorporate STEM experiences ” within the classroom.

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Recently conducted a full-day science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workshop for the 5th Grade Team of Kimball Wiles Elementary in Gainesville, STEM teachertraining by Dr Diana Wehrell-GrabowskiFlorida. 5th Grade Chairperson, Natalie Wong wrote a STEM grant which was awarded through the Education Foundation of Alachua County under the Catalyst for Change Grant. With the awarded funds, Mrs. Wong purchased STEM equipment and materials for the school, as well as scheduled STEM teacher training for the 5th Grade Team which included Teachers of the Gifted. It was a great session, the team was extremely motivated throughout the training they definitely embraced the foundational principles of STEM, as well as teaching via inquiry practices.

We started off the day with discussing and modeling ways to develop a student-driven classroom, and teaching to develop and strengthen 21st century skills.

I then introduced the group to the engineering design process via conducting a mini engineering design challenge. The groups were given the task of building the tallest freestanding structure in 15 minutes using only 15 pipe cleaners. I particularly like this mini challenge for numerous reasons: quick, minimal materials, incorporates all components of the engineering design process, and it can be accomplished with elementary students and up. At the end of 15 minutes both group structures were freestanding, the tallest one measured in at 13 inches.

Throughout the day teachers were introduced to a wide-array of technology that can be incorporated into the elementary STEM classroom including: littlebits, Ozobot, Dash and Dot, digital scales and calipers, mini illuminated microscopes, and digital microscopes. I have found through the years that many of the schools I provide training have limited their use of technology to computers and robotics. During my trainings, I try and incorporate a wide-array of technology that is used in the work field (levels, digital measuring devices, and more).

Working in small groups, the teachers had the opportunity to use several different littlebit kits including the Korg Kit which was well-received by the group. After the teachers explored the littlebit Kits I introduced the team to Squishy Circuits, a project from the Playful Learning Lab at the University of St. Thomas. Teachers used Playdoh® (which is a conductor), batteries, and assortment of low-voltage gadgets such as LEDs, buzzers etc. to make complete circuits.

I also introduced teachers to incorporating building materials and polymers in their nature of science lessons. Change up their lessons to focus on materials science, allowing their students to compare and contrast building materials, polymers, and more. STEM is about making connections with the real-world, allowing students to observe, explore and conduct experiments with newly invented materials is exciting and relevant.

We closed off the session with exploring the connections of architecture and geometry. Discussing the importance of patterns, shapes, and strength in buildings as well as in nature. Teachers were introduced to constructing 3 dimensional shapes with simple materials (toothpicks and garbonzo beans). These shapes can then be dipped into a soap solution to observe faces, vertices, and edges. These shapes can also be used to construct buildings, and conduct mass loading challenges as well as models of cities, bridges etc.

It was a great session, the teachers were thoroughly engaged throughout the entire session. They saw first hand the beauty and power of teaching via inquiry, and designing lessons that incorporate all four disciplines of STEM within a lesson. I see great STEM challenges in the near future for the students of Kimball Wiles Elementary. A big thank you to Mrs. Wong for writing the grant, and taking on the leadership role to bring STEM practices and content into the classroom. For more information about the science, NGSS, and STEM teacher training and interactive keynotes I conduct contact me via the contact page on this website. The following photos provide a snippet of the training session.

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