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Seminar helps teachers apply STEM principles to their classrooms

Seminar helps teachers apply STEM principles to their classrooms

88 students returned to school a bit early this summer. But, they weren’t the typical students. They were teachers for 34 different public and private elementary or middle schools who came to Christian Brothers High School July 19-20 to attend the Making Math Matter seminar.

Sponsored by the CBHS-CBU STEMM CoLaB, the focus of the teacher training seminar was integrating STEM principles in grades kindergarten through 8th grade.

“Our goal was to better equip area teachers with classroom activities, modes of thinking and teaching, in order to engage students in STEM lessons,” said Dr. Justin Whitmer, STEMM CoLaB Director of Teacher Development and Community Outreach.

This is the fourth teacher training seminar sponsored by the STEMMM CoLaB. Whitmer said that teachers have told him how they have benefitted and how the interactive, hands-on training helps them create new ideas to bring back to their own classrooms.

“We aim to open lines of communications between teachers and us, as well as from teacher to teacher,” said Dr. Whitmer.

Topics included: creating mathematical routines, fundamentals of computer science, technology in the math classrooms, brain science and how it applies to all educational challenges, and STEM hub activities.

Whitmer presented along with representatives from Illinois State University, University of Memphis, code.org, and Vanderbilt University.

One of our teachers fully completed STEM certification through CBU (Diedre Mangin, science teacher, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Elementary). Whitmer observed her class last year and was amazed “how fluidly and seamlessly she layers stem modes of thinking and activities in her classroom.”

Fellow OLPH teacher Cathi DeGloma, is preparing her fourth grade students for middle school and was “looking for new teaching methods to help implement the curriculum.”

Plans for next school year? Whitmer says they will look at teacher course survey responses to see in what areas teachers need assistance. Also, what is relevant and what are the needs? He said that total curriculum packages and teaching STEM through sports and arts are some areas that he sees for the near future.

“Thus, we are responding to the teachers’ needs by creating and tailoring workshops that they can use in their school classrooms,” said Whitmer. “We research the leading journals and find presenters that are out in established fields who fit the needs of the Mid-south teachers.”

Why focus on lower grades? “If you can interest a child early, better chance of him interest them for high school, then college, and STEM methods of thoughts will filter upwards, and ultimately to the local workforce to companies such as nexAir,” said Whitmer.

First grade teacher Sonya Hunt from Little Flower Elementary agrees and is “ready to implement these STEM principles in her classroom.”

And, at the middle school level, eighth grade teacher Julia Settles, who teaches algebra at Millington Middle School, “liked the strategies to be used in the math classroom that were taught in the STEM hub activities workshop.” Millington Middle started a STEM program last year.

“And ultimately, being mission-driven here in the 21st century is just a modern method of teaching just like our founder, St. John Baptist de LaSalle, did a few short centuries ago,” added Whitmer.