In 2012, I had the opportunity to attend the first STEM conference presented by Norwin Area School District. What began in a high school auditorium evolved into a major conference at the David Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh one year later.
Keynote speakers David Burns, Director of STEM Innovation Networks at Battelle and Dewayne Rideout, Vice President of Human Resources at All-Clad Metalcrafters, LLC presented messages that were inspiring as well as motivational as they linked to how we must teach students and prepare them for tomorrow’s challenges.
Burns explained a new way of looking at STEM and what it represents. He stressed that in order for science, technology, engineering, and math skills to be strengthened, teachers must learn to present them in combination and never in isolation. He also stated that the individual letters of the acronym need to be redefined. S should be linked with thinking scientifically. T for technology is a tool…never a thing. E for engineering should not represent a noun but rather is the verb that describes taking a problem and breaking it down into soluble problems. Finally, M should remind us that mathematics is a language of its own…a common language that helps students and teachers talk about common problems.
Dewayne Rideout offered this thought…that teachers need to be hearing “I now understand why that is important” from their students. That statement reflects that students are engaged in learning that matters and teachers have demonstrated an interest in what students have to offer when solving problems. His statement “The classroom is not a place…it is a state of mind” caused me to think about the importance of teachers developing creative thinking and effective problem solving among their students.
Rideout also presented the South Fayette story. South Fayette Township School District is “a regional leader in providing real world, problem solving experiences for students through Project-Based and other Inquiry-Based Learning experiences. For the past five years, South Fayette Township High School students have partnered with regional corporations and institutions to work in collaborative teams.” One of the most successful partnerships has been with Dewayne Rideout’s company…All-Clad. Students are engaged in helping the company solve problems that arise. Rideout stated that All-Clad has learned a great deal from the students and that educators need to realize that many times…it is rewarding to allow students to be our teachers.
Break-out sessions provided many new ideas to those in attendance at the STEM convention. I left with a renewed desire to continue to bring about change in education…in our classrooms, regardless of the age of students (including in colleges and universities)…and a strengthened hope that together educators, administrators, school board members, community members, and students can “explore, connect, and transform” learning.
Special congratulations to Norwin Area School District for playing a significant role in organizing this conference. ASSET (Achieving Student Success through Excellence in Teaching), the partner with Norwin in presenting this conference, also receives a special acknowledgement for their ongoing efforts to develop teacher and student achievement especially in STEM education.
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