In the spirit of a true summer festival, the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council hosted Iowa’s first STEMpalooza on July 17-21 at Waukee’s Innovation and Learning Center.
A PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT SHOWCASE
The impetus for the event came a guideline in the STEM BEST program, which requires teachers to target PD that bridges school and business partnerships.
“We received feedback that schools didn’t know who was offering opportunities,” said Dr. Jeff Weld, director of the state initiative. “This showcase provides samples from STEM PD around the state. It provides those connections. If you see a PD you like, you can contract with them for your district.”
All participants got a dose of DOS (Dimensions of Success), which is an observation tool for measuring the success of STEM programming. It’s typically applied to out-of-school programs, but has relevance to traditional classrooms, also.
DOS takes activities that are fun, like hands-on projects, and ensures principles of concrete learning exist within the experience. Building a tinfoil boat that floats maybe fun, but learning the principles of buoyancy and liquid displacement leads to a learning experience that builds cognitive connections for the future. DOS also allows students to use an inquiry-based, goal-oriented process of learning.
“This changed the way we do programming,” said Deb Dunkcase, Director of Iowa’s Children’s Museum, putting more intention behind all they do. She is a certified DOS facilitator and uses it to create programming and design exhibits. She created a video using their slime workshop as an example:
“Everyone loved making slime, but we realized we needed to do a better job of showing the learning behind it.” Instead of a make-and-take mental, the slime workshop was student-driven and goal-based. “You have to give up some control to let student inquiry happen, but the kids are more excited and engaged in the learning.”
Going forward, Dunkcase is offering four DOS PDs this fall: September 22 in Grinnell and October 12 in Atlantic. Both will offer an introductory and a more advanced session, running from 10am-2pm each day. They’ve also created a Wiki Site, and they hope to gather the best DOS lesson plans and create an online library open for those who participate in the PDs.
“The goal is to change the face of afterschool STEM,” said Dunkcase. “There’s a saying: The rising tide floats all boats. We want to nurture and help each other develop fabulous STEM.”
OUTCOMES OF THE WEEK
Weld encourages participants to look at curriculum as a whole, not broken into the layers of S-T-E-M. A key question he poses when considering curriculum is: “Why isn’t the day prep structured like the day that awaits?”
At the close of the week, teachers will go back to their schools and talk about all the PD opportunities available across the state. Weld wants participants to walk away from the experience with two things: “First, I hope they realize all of the great opportunities available in the state. Second, I hope participants are picking up an extra dose of STEM that they can use with their students.”
|Iowa’s STEM Network gains strength as PD participants carry their connections back to home districts.