This week I traveled to Washington, DC to receive my PAEMST award. I ambitiously thought I would blog while in DC, but we were promised that the trip would leave us “exhilarated and exhausted” and it did indeed! Still, I want to record my thoughts on this action-packed adventure while they are semi-fresh in my mind (and the reality of my classroom responsibilities is still a couple days away)!
I arrived in DC in the morning and headed for our hotel, The Grand Hyatt. I registered and headed for a two hour orientation. At orientation, the details for the trip were spelled out for us and we were introduced to the team that planned the trip. It was great to meet all the awardees – yes, all 213 of us introduced ourselves in turn – and begin to hear some of the stories that brought us together. Our trip was unusual because the awardees were from two cohorts, the 2014 Elementary PAEMST awardees and the 2015 Secondary PAEMST awardees, instead of one.
At the end of orientation we practiced our lineup for the awards ceremony which would take place on Day 2. We were arranged by state and then by cohort, so I got to meet the 3 other Ohioans on the trip, Beth Vavzinczak, Marcy Burns, and Susan Dankworth. After we demonstrated our lineup prowess, we boarded buses for our dinner at the National Zoo.
The weather was stormy and many of the animals had turned in for the evening, but it was still a lovely stroll through a beautiful setting.We had a delicious dinner under a tent near the Lion and Tiger Hill. As we entered the text, we received our PAEMST pin. After dinner, we were welcomed and congratulated by William Lewis, the Deputy Assistant Director of Education and Human Resources at the National Science Foundation, and introduced to our keynote speaker Margaret Honey, CEO of New York Hall of Science.
There were many great takeaways from the interesting talk by Margaret Honey. She shared the statistic that there will be 8 million new STEM jobs available by 2018 but there will not be enough qualified US citizens to fill them. This was a call to action that was echoed by many speakers over the course of the three days. She also shared her fascination with the Google Science Fair and two things she had noticed about the students who had been successful in that venue: First, students had been given the time and space to follow a passion to through their projects. Many projects start with an authentic problem, local to students’ lives, that needs a real solution. Second, students were encouraged and supported by talented educators. The message here was clear: In order to inspire students to become qualified to be the next generation of STEM innovators, the US is counting on us help and encourage students to follow their passions.