If you walked down the Hall of Arts and Letters at Grove City College on a Friday afternoon last September, you probably heard pre-service teachers say, “Cool!”, “This is awesome!” or “Wow, that is so neat!” as they experienced science experiments firsthand and learned how to integrate STEM initiatives into their classrooms.
From building toothpick-and-marshmallow bridges to testing classroom air quality with a Speck particulate monitor, Project-based Learning (PBL) engages students in answering questions about complex phenomena in their everyday lives.
From designing projects that address real problems to cultivating learning environments that inspire creativity and critical thinking, ASSET has long been a pioneer in supporting educators to adopt best practices in STEM education. The 2017 Trends Report from ASSET partner 100Kin10 confirms it.
Among its predictions for 2018, one trend that is expected to gain momentum is integrating STEM with real-world applications—something we’ve been doing for several years with project-based learning (PBL). We’ve recently enhanced the program with teacher externships, which provide opportunities for teachers to visit STEM professionals in the workplace in order to make PBL experiences relevant for students. And ASSET continues to equip educators and students with tools for success through professional development courses and STEM curriculum materials.
Two years ago, a group of North Hills School District teachers and I began the needs assessment portion of our curriculum review cycle for science. We entered the process with confidence in our core curriculum, as we’ve been partnering with ASSET and implementing “hands-on, minds-on” FOSS (Full Option Science System) programming for over 20 years. Furthermore, for the five years prior, the district was averaging 93 percent advanced or proficient on the fourth grade science state assessment tests in all four of our elementary buildings. Given Pennsylvania’s continued use of unchanged science standards, we didn’t think we’d need to make many tweaks to our curriculum. We soon would realize, however, that if we were to going to continue to offer the most meaningful science experiences to our students, we would have to take a much deeper dive into Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) materials than we had ever intended.
This past spring, ASSET’s professional development (PD) specialists traveled to Idaho—specifically Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston and Boise State University in Boise—to conduct three-day PD sessions for school district administrators, teachers, preservice teachers, and librarians. The onsite course, Lay a Strong Foundation for STEM Teaching and Learning in Your Classroom: Unlock Student Potential through Hands-on Inquiry, included an optional virtual component, which was offered throughout August, September, and October and will wrap up November 13.
In August, ASSET STEM Education launched Project-based Learning through Teacher Externships, an innovative program aimed at matching educators with STEM professionals in order to connect classroom learning with real-world issues and problems.The program is supported through Arconic Foundation.The program is supported through Arconic Foundation.
Early Childhood Education in the United States and the Case for STEM
Nearly 4 million children enter kindergarten each year in the United States. Unfortunately, research shows that without access to high-quality early education, too many children enter kindergarten a year or more behind their classmates in academic and social-emotional skills (US Dept. of Education, 2015).
By now you’ve at least heard of project-based learning (PBL), maybe read a success story or two about how effective it is, completed professional development around it, or observed a colleague implementing it in his or her classroom. You might even have facilitated projects with your own students that involved tackling a “real-world” problem and presenting solutions—perhaps creating a new technology or designing an actual product.
Regardless of your level of exposure to PBL, you might be wondering—beyond Does it actually work?—How do I as an educator, who is committed to not just teaching but to preparing my students to continue their educations and enter the 21st-century global STEM workforce, implement PBL in my classroom that is practical and relevant? That exposes my students to the challenges they’re likely to face in their future careers? That gives them the knowledge and skills they’ll need to tackle these challenges? That bridges the gap between what they’re learning in the classroom and what’s happening in real life by incorporating actual problems and problem-solving methods used in industry?
Because isn’t that the point?