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Teachers Enter a New School Year After a Summer at STEM Camp

At the end of the school year many teachers look forward to their summer break as a chance to get their minds off the classroom and enjoy a little well-deserved R&R. For Iowa science teacher Marc Pedersen though, the summer break provides an opportunity for him to get into the state’s waterways so that he might bring new experiences to his students in the fall.

Pedersen is one of many teachers around the country who spent his summer break involved in STEM programs that allow him to develop new ways of how he presents practical real-world science to his students. For Pedersen, this means participating in the Polk County water conservation program and wading out into streams and ponds to measure acidity levels and water bug populations. "It reinvigorates me to go back to the classroom and work with my kids, " he said.

From water conservation to 3D printing and robotic engineering, teachers took a cue from their students and also enrolled in STEM summer programs. The summer programs offered to teachers by companies like ExxonMobil and IBM, allow educators to stay on top of the latest STEM developments so that they might pass their newly-learned skills and insights down to their students.

It’s a way of empowering teachers in the subjects they teach so that their students will be better informed and ultimately have a greater knowledge of STEM, explained Juan Elizondo, director of communications for National Math and Science Initiative. "The way to help kids is to help teachers," Elizondo told The Bismarck Tribune. "You can’t have engaged students if you don’t have engaged teachers." The Dallas-based nonprofit works to improve teaching in STEM fields by helping teachers explore new hands-on methods of teaching their students, such as burning up Cheetos to calculate how many calories are in the cheesy junk food.

Teachers in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana area participated in a July STEM summer camp where they had the opportunity to engage their inner kid and play with LEGOs. To be more accurate, it was all part of a computer robotics programming lesson put on by the Robotics LEGO WeDo lab that incorporates robotic uses in the real world. For example, the teachers broke up into teams and had the robots they built maneuver through a virtual fruit orchard spraying pesticides.

For STEM summer program leaders like Sheree Wilder, who led the Baton Rouge LEGO robotics class, it’s all about the students of these teachers being introduced to concepts and new skills that they’re likely to encounter later on in the workforce. “I want them to have the experience their kids have,” Wilder explained. “I don’t just give them the lesson. I want them to explore.”


Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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