STEM Professional Development

Would you love to teach STEM in your classroom this year but aren't sure how to get started? Did YOUR district put STEM in your timeline but didn't offer much in the way of professional development (PD)? I have colleagues who feel completely intimidated by the idea of STEM, not realizing they are already teaching it. So what's the problem?

One big issue that I see is a lack of support for teachers via PD. When I decided a few years ago that STEM was important my district was offering nothing for elementary teachers. STEM PD was just for middle and high school teachers. At the end of one school year I sent an email to our district STEM person asking if there were PD opportunities over the summer and was told that the math/science coaches will pass on info from their meetings (nothing, apparently).

Now, I realize that some of you probably have lots of workshops going on in your district or even in your own building. And some of you are probably as frustrated as I was and having to make your own PD! I have decided to write a couple posts about some things I did to further my own knowledge and skills. First up:

1. Conferences

I realized that I was going to have to look outside for the training I wanted so I jumped on anything I could find. I have had the opportunity to attend some good ones in the last three years. I live in Central Florida so they don't necessarily solve your PD problems. However, you can look around your area for similar chances.

Discovery Education STEM Academy (click here for website)

If Discovery does a STEM Academy anywhere near you, GO! It's free to attend this full day training, so the price is right. When I attended it was in another school district on a Saturday. Because of the travel, I stayed over the night before so I did have some expense. I consider it well worth the price of a motel room. Check the website periodically to see where the events are scheduled. Right now there is no announcement for the upcoming school year. Here are the learning targets for a STEM Academy session:

  • I CAN explain the rationale and implications for STEM education.
  • I CAN describe a STEM experience and explain instructional strategies that support STEM.
  • I CAN identify digital tools and resources to support STEM instruction and engage all students in authentic learning.
  • I CAN describe how STEM is a culture of learning that connects with all subject areas.

 Florida Engineering Education Conference (click here)

The University of Central Florida (UCF) is near me in Orlando. They have an awesome one day conference around March of each year. This one is also free.

  • Keynote speakers representing the education sector and STEM professional organizations and industries.
  • An industry panel to include senior STEM administrators from corporate agencies to discuss the importance of STEM to the future workforce.
  • A series of concurrent interactive and hands-on workshops.

K-5 STEAM Conference (click here)

Because I am on the email list for the UCF conference I received information last year about an elementary school that was having their first conference. This school is a center for mathematics and engineering and it was a blast to be there on school days to see what they do. This one was not free; when I asked my principal for two days to attend she told me the school couldn't cover any of the costs but I was willing to cover my expenses if she would give me the time (she did). I am hoping to go back in December for number 2. With this one, we could see teachers doing lessons in the classrooms as well as go to breakout sessions.

During the 2016-2017 school year, my district finally had a STEM workshop for elementary teachers! They called it "science after hours" because it was an evening class. I'm hoping they will do more, as it turned out to be a valuable STEM training. The key is that I implemented things from the workshop right away. To me, that is what makes or breaks a training.

Next week I will write about another avenue for learning about STEM - one that is completely free!

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