Forty-five teachers from five Central Florida counties, including Brevard, Lake, Orange, Seminole and Volusia, as well as Florida Virtual School, became “students” for a day at all day professional development workshop centered around bringing Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) to life in the classroom.
The Central Florida Educator’s Day workshop, sponsored by Team Orlando, in partnership with the National Training and Simulation Association (NTSA), Central Florida STEM Education Council, Orange County Public Schools, and American Society of Civil Engineers, took place in conjunction with the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference at the Orange County Convention Center.
“Our goal was simple,” said Benn Aaronson, Team Orlando STEM advocate. “We wanted to provide hands on, Project-Based Learning activities for teachers to use in their classroom immediately, that were low cost and used easy-to-find supplies.”
Each teacher in attendance was given ten Project-Based Learning (PBL) activities to illustrate different science and engineering concepts, and then was instructed in how the projects worked. One of the projects included designing and building a soft landing craft for eggs, similar to the challenges of the Mars robotics missions. Another involved building catapults to launch marshmallows, which helps to teach measuring trajectory and distance. They also explored the concept of electricity using en energy ball. The workshop instructors included Dr.L ester Morales from NASA, Bob Seltzer from NAWCTSD, Mike Olka with the American Society of Civic Engineers, and Abdul Siddiqui with PEOSTRI.
After the group completed each project, there was a coordinating discussion of how to use it in the classroom, helping to bring the experiment and the teaching lesson full circle.
After the hands-on classroom experience, the teachers were escorted to the I/ITSEC floor to see the STEM pavilion, excited to return home with new ideas to use in their classroom, evident in the evaluations they left for the workshop organizers.
Organizers said the power of a “hands-on, low cost” STEM workshop, made possible through the partnership of a diverse group of community STEM advocates, was evident in the teacher evaluations, and were very pleased by the 9.3 out of 10 average of the teacher evaluations.
“One teacher told me this experience gave her the confidence to share these projects with her students,” said Aaronson, “and that without this experience she would have never taken the first step to search and download unfamiliar experiments for use in the classroom.”
Many organizations supported the workshop and helped to make it a success. They include: DISTI Corporation, Manufacturers Association of Central Florida, NASA, National Center for Simulation, Team Orlando, American Society of Civil Engineers, NAWCTSD and PEO STRI.
Plans are already underway for another I/ITSEC Project-Based Learning teacher workshop next year, and with the help of teacher feedback and evaluations, organizers are counting on an even better opportunity for attendees next time.