Two weeks ago, I attended the Seimens STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland. It was an amazing week where I felt I got flooded with information and infused with excitement for the new school year. So exciting to be around 49 other passionate STEM teachers and realize – these are my people. I understand them, I love being around them, and I love tapping their energy and excitement. Many of my Seimens STEM collegues have already returned to work and have been excitedly tweeting about their progress in implementing the new concepts they learned. Although I don’t officially go back to work until Thursday, I want to ride the wave of their enthusiasm by spelling out a few of my goals for the 2013-2014 school year.
1. Student Video Tutorial Library: Teaching is the highest form of learning. This statement was made by Lodge McCammon, our keynote speaker on the first night of the Seimens STEM institute. When I heard him say that, it was like fireworks went off in my brain. That phrase just keeps rolling around my head over and over. Teaching is the highest form of learning. So one of my goals this year is to have my students create video tutorials of the material they are learning in class using Lodge’s Fizz model. I will then upload these to my school webpage (providing I have a parent release and student consent).
2. Note-taking: I need to come up with a better method of note-taking. When I taught from a textbook, I used a chapter foldable that worked great. However, last year, the majority of the content was taught through the warm-up, not formal notes. So I’m looking for other ideas that will help me emphasize the importance of the warm-up. The most compelling possibility I’ve read about so far is the Interactive Notebook. The main idea of this is that the right hand page is for input (usually notes). The left hand page is for output. In my classroom, I’ll have students divide their left page into quadrants. The warm-up (which is always 1/4 sheet) will go in the top left quadrant, the top right quadrant for questions/things they don’t understand, the bottom left for aha’s, and the bottom right for a summary of the lesson.
3. Teaching Science and Engineering in Math Class: Last year, I noticed in my units are very lacking in science. I pull in some science for the unit on exponents, but other than that, I hardly ever use science applications to teach the 8th Grade Common Core. This was actually one of my purposes in applying for the Seimens STEM Institute – I want to teach more science and engineering in my class. But since I haven’t taken a science class since high school, it’s hard for me to come up with science-based lessons on my own – especially lessons that don’t require a lot of front-loading with science content. I didn’t get the ‘pull-out-of-the-box’ science lessons I was looking for at the STEM Institute. I gained something better – two Professional Learning Networks – the Seimens STEM Institute Fellows and the MathTwitterBlogoSphere. I feel confident that through these two networks I can find the resources and ideas I need to bring more science and engineering into my classroom this year.
4. Spark STEM Passion: People have a lot of differing opinions about the purpose of education. Sure, I want my students to learn integrity, compassion, and work ethic so that they can become responsible citizens of this planet. I also want them to be able to get a good job that they actually like. Even though unemployment is high, job growth in STEM-related fields has continued to grow. Eric Speigel, CEO of the Seimens Corporation told us that at any given time his company has 2000-3000 jobs listed that they cannot fill because there are no applicants with the necessary skills.
A successful career goal lies at the intersection of passion, ability and demand. Passion comes first. My goal is to introduce my students to some professionals who work in STEM fields. I’m thinking of doing this on normally ‘dead’ days like the day before fall break, winter break, etc. On back to school night, I’ll have parents sign up to speak for 10 minutes about their STEM career on one of these days. I’d like to have guest speakers for 20 min and then have my students participate in a short but related STEM challenge for 20 min the other half of class and have the guest speakers judge or question students about their projects.