Magazine article Teach

The Stem Effect: Transforming Schools

Magazine article Teach

The Stem Effect: Transforming Schools

Article excerpt

When asked last year to serve as the STEM/Curriculum Coordinator in my district, I began to read everything I could find on the topic of STEM. I attended conferences and visited schools where STEM professional development was provided. At one such conference, I heard a speaker share statistics relating to how far the United States lagged in college student representation for STEM related fields. My own research confirmed what the speaker had shared. I was suddenly determined to do my part in flipping those numbers. A "Tradition of Excellence" has long been the motto for Winfield City Schools where I am employed. This motto has manifested itself in several forms that includes research-based instructional practices resulting in high academic achievement. As a system, we began to search for ways to integrate best practices for STEM instruction into our classrooms on a daily basis.

In rural communities, students are limited in the career choices they are exposed to regularly. For example, in our community students see teachers, coaches, nurses, and bank tellers as common career choices. While these are all great jobs in respected fields, as educators, we owe it to our students to introduce them to a wide variety of career choices. Teachers should feel obligated to expose students to many different careers, encouraging them to find where and how they can have the greatest, positive impact on the world in which they will work and live. As a faculty, we began to meet in both horizontal and vertical alignment meetings to determine changes we needed to make to better prepare our students for the 21st Century. District-wide, we eliminated the status quo of rows of desks and replaced them with tables and collaborative learning environments. Project-based learning was encouraged as was ongoing STEM challenges. Robotics began in our Pre-K programs and continued with natural progression through the high school grades as students joined competitive rocketry and robotics teams. Dr. Keith Davis, our system superintendent, encouraged teachers to embed STEM in their instruction as a methodology, not just an activity. The engineering design process was used in most classrooms as a guideline for STEM challenges across disciplines.

A common thread during a time of change in any organization is doubt, expressed by some of our faculty members. To help these teachers make a smooth transition into the STEM mindset, STEM boxes were filled and delivered each grading period. The boxes contained activities and supplies to enhance lessons that teachers had planned for their students based on grade level standards. …

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