Admittedly spending most of his time in his “little world of the classroom” means Marvin Kopf doesn’t have a lot of time to be up on the newest STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) practices.
Hopefully, that’s about to change for Kopf, an eighth grade science teacher with the St. Louis Public School District. He was one of nearly 100 educators who attended a September STEM Leadership Series workshop that drew participants from 29 area school districts.
“It’s eye-opening,” Kopf said of the all-day workshop that focused on STEM and curriculum integration. “To have the experts, the people that are doing this for a living, saying, ‘This is what is working and this is where we need to be going is very helpful to me.”’
Knopf has signed up for all the workshops in the series.
The workshops are for administrators, principals, teachers and leaders interested in bringing a stronger STEM mindset and intention to school and classroom practices. The series is sponsored by STEMpact and the Institute for School Partnership at Washington University.
“I’m looking forward to the whole series and how it’s going to make me a better teacher to bring these resources back to my classroom,” he said.
During the morning session, participants heard about the importance of cultivating not just STEM skills but also soft skills – those are things like communication, problem solving and teamwork. The afternoon session focused on Makerspace designs. The day also included an engineering design challenge that involved designing a device to move a fragile egg.
Kimberly Tooley, principal of Hillsboro Elementary School, takes part in the “EGGS-cellent Challenge” during the STEM Leadership Series workshop on Monday, September 19, 2016.
“I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but I am so glad I attended,” she said. “I have heard of Makerspace but had never seen it in action. I feel like I received many ideas and resources I can take back to my school to enhance our STEM program.”
The takeaway for Ian Buchanan, interim assistant superintendent for curriculum and instructional services with the School District of University City, was the need for STEM professionals in our area, and conveying that to students.
“Our students have a tremendous opportunity to access great careers,” he said.
This was his first STEM Leadership workshop and he had rave reviews. “I’m impressed,” he said.
Jana Flynn, a teacher with the St. Louis Public School District said she loved the hands-on ideas she took away from the event.
“Walking away from a speaker and saying, ‘Hey I think I can do that in my classroom, is invaluable.’” Flynn said. She’s excited to take part in the remaining series.
Chauncey Trawick, a fifth grade teacher with the Ferguson-Florissant School District echoed Flynn’s sentiment about the value of the presentations and breakout sessions.
“It gives you a lot of ideas and lot of information as to what STEM is and how it can be implemented in the classroom, as well as a plethora of resources you can use,” she said.
Trawick was especially impressed by speaker Alan Spell of the Missouri Department of Economic Development. He connected the dots, detailing how STEM fits into careers and jobs of the future.
“One of our goals at Ferguson-Florissant is for students to think about being college and career bound, now I can take back these resources to students and let them know what are the jobs of the future and the salary and necessary education levels.”
STEMpact is a unique ongoing collaboration of the St. Louis area’s top STEM companies providing education and resources for teachers and school district to help STEM education thrive in the St. Louis region. The group’s mission statement is “prepare today’s students to become tomorrow’s STEM professional.”