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PAEMST 2015 Trip to DC - Day 2 - Education Impression

PAEMST 2015 Trip to DC – Day 2


Day 2 of the trip started early, with breakfast at 7 AM. I had a delightful conversation with my tablemates, a mix of K-6 and 7-12 math and science teachers. We shared stories of our PAEMST videos, both our instructional choices and our blooper reels. Most of us agreed that we tried to show different types of instruction, often large group and small group, in our videos. We all included a hands on or active learning component.

After breakfast we lined up by award year and height and moved to our group picture location. Once in place, we were introduced to Megan Smith, the US Chief Technology Officer. Megan congratulated us, shared stories of inspiring teachers from her education, and talked just a bit about her work. She has an infectious enthusiasm for STEM projects, including education, and an authentic affection for people, like the awardees, who are deeply committed to STEM education. 

At the conclusion of her remarks, Megan introduced us to the Secretary of the Department of Energy, Dr Ernest Moniz. He shared an overview of the work at the Department of Energy and gave us an open invitation to visit any of the Department of Energy Labs. He shared a statistic that 50% of the US economic growth since World War II has been due to STEM efforts, providing a foundation for the importance of our work and recognition. Then he joined us for our group picture!

Next on our agenda was participation in a Symposium on Active Learning in STEM Education. Our keynote speaker was Dr William Penuel, a professor of education psychology and learning sciences at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He talked about the characteristics of and importance of active learning in STEM education, emphasizing these key points:

  • Active learning should be anchored with authentic student questions and life experiences
  • STEM learning should include all students and all students should be visibly represented in examples of STEM learning
  • The idea of smartness should be expanded to include qualities we see emerging in ur students, not just the skills they have mastered
We watched a video and discussed the active learning principles we saw in action to develop a common understanding of active learning. I was also intrigued by the idea of “talk moves” and watched this video about it to learn more.

Then we listened to a panel of three more engaging people:
  • Dr Barnett Berry, CEO of Center for Teaching Equality, talked about the importance of teachers driving their own professional development and taking back PLC time to meet their needs. He also emphasized the importance of modeling great teaching for others and of hybrid coaches who share time between classroom and coaching.
  • Talia Milgrom-Elcott, Executive Director of 100kin10, shared her organization’s work to prepare 100,000 excellent STEM teachers by 2021. She invited teachers to sign up to collaborate with 100kin10 here.
  • Dr Sharon Lynch, professor at George Washington University, previewed work she would share with us the next day about the inclusive success of students in STEM high schools across the country.
During lunch, Megan Smith returned to the podium and shared with us some interesting initiatives and work at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The awardees used words like “amazing” and “inspiring” to describe her. We could have listened all day, but the message was this: include all students in high quality STEM education that is tied to student passions and you will unlock more talent and unlock the possible. 

After lunch we attended breakout sessions. My session was called “Developing and Testing a Model to Support Student Understanding of the Sub-Microscopic Interactions that Govern Biological and Chemical Processes” and was led by Joe Krajcik, professor or Science Education at Michigan State University. He was awesome! Here is a link to the slides. He shared an exemplar unit that starts with a natural phenomenon and builds toward student understanding through activities and questions. See sample phenomena here. He also shared two resources, Michigan’s Create for Stem Institute and the Concord Consortium which are free.

At the conclusion of the symposium, we had one hour to catch our breath and change clothes before boarding the bus for the DAR Constitution Hall where our awards ceremony would take place. Once there, we lined up and had a brief rehearsal. Then had 20 minutes before we lined up and processed in for the real thing. The venue was spectacular and the attendees included our family members, some congresspeople, and representatives of professional organizations like AACT. We heard congratulations and inspiring words from Dr Sylvia James and Dr Joan Ferrini-Mundy of the National Science Foundation, Dr France Cordova, Director of the National Science Foundation, and Dr John Holdren, the Science Advisor to President Obama. Then we each received our award and attended a lovely post-ceremony reception.

Ohio 2014 PAEMST Awardees: Susan Dankworth & Marcy Burns
Ohio 2015 PAEMST Awardess: Beth Vavzinczak & Amy Roediger

Following the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s Call to Action to improve STEM education through active learning, the Office announced an initiative to celebrate Active Learning Day on October 25. I hope many teachers in Ohio will join me in participating.

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