Over the past year and half I have served as a Senior STEM Fellow for the Dayton Regional STEM Center.
As a Fellow, I have worked with professors from local universities, engineers from the AFRL, business leaders, and other classroom teachers to help develop STEM curriculum for our schools. This in itself started off as quite a challenge, due to the fact that we were initially stuck on what was exactly was a STEM lesson? We eventually agreed on something very similar to a Problem Based Lesson that we have been discussing in Mary's Blog.
After a year of hard work, our clusters (I was in one called "Sensors") developed something in the area of 50 lessons for grade levels K-12.
Through this process, one of the things that I noticed was that vast majority of our area STEM programs are at the high school level and that there were very few at Middle/Elementary levels. So I talked to my district administration and we decided to start a STEM program at our Middle School. Since it's still evolving, the details are kind of fuzzy at this point. As of this moment it will probably start out as 15-20, 5th and 6th graders. The students will mostly be identified as gifted. However, I encouraged them to include some students that have shown problem solving abilities, but underachieve in the classroom as far as traditional testing/grades/behavior. I do this because experience has taught me that sometimes the kids that are the best problem solvers are the ones that may have never heard of Pascal, but have siphoned gas before...........
Anyway- I'm starting this program from scratch. It's our districts hope that this evolves and improves into an exemplar program. That's why I am writing this blog. I'm fortunate to have support and access to unreleased lesson plans (they will be released, once vetted), but I would love to have input from educators that have been or may soon be in my shoes. How do I create an incredible STEM program?
I am putting the wheels in motion for our first thematic unit- Energy. To be more specific "In a time that our school district is making cuts to save money, how can we help through energy conservation at Indian Valley Middle School?"
It’s my intent to create a quarter long unit whereas the students:
- Break down real numbers relating to energy consumption in our building- including actual cost
(Working with bills, a school wide energy audit, etc.)
- Explore how energy is created, stored, transferred, and consumed
(Labs, field trips, speakers, etc.)
- Develop a detailed plan for the building to become more energy friendly
(Students will present to school board)
I'm sure that I’ll add more/tweak as we go through the process, but I figured that empowering 10-12 year olds would be a good place to start. I welcome any feedback regarding this plan or any other ideas that you may offer. Thanks