AISD math and science teachers learn about STEM formation

STEM teacher training in the STEM lab at Patrick Elementary

STEM teacher training in the STEM lab at Patrick Elementary

Sept. 21, 2015 - Fifth and sixth grade math and science teachers from Adams and Patrick Elementary Schools received STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) training today to help them best utilize their lab space and implement a more student-focused method of teaching. The third and fourth grade teachers will attend the training, held in Patrick’s STEM labs, tomorrow.

Toi Hershman, the STEM consultant who led the training, called the methodology she is teaching “STEM formation.” It calls for a shift away from lecture-based instruction to a pedagogy that involves more activities and collaboration and is more hands on. It’s “less us [teachers], more them [students],” said Hershman. In other words, the students learn more through experience than just listening to the teacher. But the teacher is the one who facilitates those experiences and ensures they are rich with educational value and incorporate the four Cs: communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.

The AISD has placed a significant emphasis on STEM education and is adding two STEM labs at each elementary school, funded by the 2014 Bond package. [Read more about the development of the elementary STEM labs in the October bond newsletter.] These labs will provide a purposely-designed space for STEM formation at every school. But simply adding STEM labs at each elementary is not enough to foster the type of teaching and learning that constitutes STEM formation. “We want to make sure the teachers know how to use the space,” said Danielle Reynolds, AISD PK-12 Science/Health Coordinator.

So the AISD is providing professional development for elementary math and science teachers, along with the high school teachers at AISD’s new STEM Academy (housed at Martin High School). Conducted by Discovery Education, the training involves three days of professional development for the teachers – including the trainings today and tomorrow – spread out during the semester, along with two coaching sessions. The coaching sessions in October and November include classroom observation, so the teachers can receive practical advice and instruction that pertains specifically to them.

The teachers at Adams and Patrick are receiving the training first as their schools are new and already have excellent STEM labs. Spacious, the labs are designed and furnished to enhance group work and activities. [See photos of Patrick’s STEM labs.] Construction of similar STEM labs will begin at other elementaries in the spring of 2016. It will take until the spring of 2018 to finish all schools. Training for the teachers will follow the construction schedule; as schools receive the labs, teachers will receive the training.