Friday, February 10, 2012

Day 2- STEM Economy

Today was the wrap up of the STEM summit.  I heard about STEM oriented K-12 school, STEM/Maker-inspired school programs, and novel ways of building post-secondary education.  I worked with a team to develop a short curriculum that could be used in a variety of different ways to teach math, physics, Project Management and communication using a hydroelectric power generation.  I even got to be on the STEM Education panel, representing informal education. 

We talked about the role and importance of STEM Education, how to make that more engaging and where to draw resources from.  What did I choose to highlight? I have feelings on all those things- I talked about how all citizens in a democracy need to have a basic understanding of STEM, including the ability to continue to learn, in order to contribute to our national needs.  I talked about how at the Girls Math & Science Program we have refined techniques for getting girls to engage in STEM, and why this (ie- compassion) might work well for other underrepresented groups as well.  We know we need to provide mentors who look like our girls, to explain the pathway to entry, and to provide an external motivation (studying hard today opens opportunities in your future, like good pay and fun work). Girls like collaboration, so that's a huge part of how we structure events and activities.

And finally, I talked about drawing on students to be mentors.  As I said, my boss doesn't know as much as I do about the workforce right now- he's had his job for 20 years.  Someone did a rough estimate that each of these STEM high schools has a graduating class of 150 students every year, that it would be just impossible to find the mentors for all those students.  I would argue that one mentor can have relationships with multiple mentees, and that borrowing from people who are farther along in the pipeline (post-docs, grad students), helps those of us in training remember why we got on this crazy train in the first place.  My panel also talked a bit about the Grand Challenges in Engineering and Global Health, but I'd like to talk about that more later.

If you are a teacher who wants to bring more hands-on, inquiry-based or  different teaching materials into your classroom, here are some of the interesting resources I learned that are available: the Girl's Math and Science Partnership that I work with- we have educational games and materials Energy related resources changing our math-phobic culture - Science Competitions in Washington (I believe this is a national program)

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