In August of 2011, I participated as a fellow in the 2011 Siemens STEM Institute located at Discovery Communications headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. The Siemens Foundation and Discovery Education, in conjunction with the College Board, chose me as a fellow to be immersed in hands-on STEM professional development for an entire week. As a fellow, I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate with 49 other educators from across the U.S. in a unique professional development program.
Focused on providing participating educators with new tools, skills and strategies for improving student achievement in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines, I was selected from an impressive pool of over 4,000 educators nationwide. Throughout the institute, I met with government officials, leading scientists, and esteemed educational thought leaders whose work across STEM disciplines, shapes and defines today’s education landscape. In addition, I engaged in discussions and workshops around key topics such as using technology and social media in the classroom to improve student achievement. This is significant because I gained a plethora of knowledge and experience about how to best meet the needs of my 21st century students in STEM education.
Following the Institute, I am currently serving as a STEM ambassador in my school and community as I continue working with my colleagues using the tools and knowledge gained from the Institute. This is significant because I returned to my district, empowered with new knowledge to share with my colleagues with a goal of improving student achievement in the critical disciplines of STEM. This is directly linked to student learning because now all of my colleagues have the opportunity to use the resources and tools that I acquired at the institute with their students. By sharing what I learned from the institute with my colleagues, I am creating a ripple effect that will positively impact the education of all our students.
As a STEM ambassador, I created a project titled, STEMtrepreneurship, for my students to execute this year. The project that I created is an example of challenge-based learning by encouraging my students to use inquiry in order to solve a problem within their school or community. Students apply what they have learned in my technology class by creating a product (a good or a service) that will solve a problem, or satisfy a need or a want within their community. For example, after researching and reviewing over 60 problems within their school and community, my students decided to respond to the problem of not having enough barbells for Physical Education class. After two weeks of working through the Engineering Design Process, my students were able to successfully design and build four barbells made from PVC pipe, sand, rebar and glue. These barbells were then donated to the Physical Education department at my middle school. This directly impacts student learning because my students are empowered by demonstrating their workplace readiness skills that they have learned in my CTE course to solve a real-world problem in their own community.
In addition to creating and implementing this project, I was also able to get four other teachers from the institute to commit to this project with me. This is significant because I am encouraging my peers to join me in challenging our students to excel in the disciplines of STEM by engaging them in a real-world experience. The four other teachers and I communicate via the Internet in order to collaborate on this assignment. This is significant because collaborating online allows us to learn and share the results of our students’ projects with each other, which we can then share with our students. This impacts student learning, because our students are able to learn how other students in different parts of the country are solving problems within their school and community.