Creating STEM Connections
When I attended SSEAT Energy's Innovations and Implications in 2018, I was a 4th grade teacher looking to deepen my own knowledge so I could better help my students understand the complex and abstract issues involving energy. It can be seriously hard to get a 9 year old to care about energy consumption! I came home from Washington, DC, with a renewed passion for my job, and I will forever consider it a life-changing event. I do not know how a teacher could experience what we did at SSEAT and not be changed, for the better, FOREVER! However, a week after returning, a new job opportunity in my district arose. I took on the position of Instructional Technology Coordinator. I took my new job because I was ready to affect more students. I have gone from being able to teach 30 kids in my classroom to 1,000+ teachers in my district and hopefully the 14,000+ students they serve. But, I could not let all I learned go to waste because I no longer have a full-time classroom of my own. I have been able to use my experiences and connections at SSEAT in two ways that are affecting students across my district.
STEM Education for All!
As a part of my new job, I have organized a cohort of science teachers across the 12 elementary schools in my county. I figured I have the technology, and they have the science, engineering, and math. Together, we are able to craft hands-on experiences for all students. I shared multiple resources from the SSEAT and paired them with the robots and devices from the technology department to create an entire unit on energy for 4th grade! I was able to purchase (with a grant from DOW Chemical who sent me to SSEAT) materials for paper circuits. At our next meeting, I will get to show the teachers how to use them with resources from StemAzing at https://stemazing.org/resources/. I have other plans for another meeting later this year because the resources from SSEAT were enough for me to spread over the course of a year and to help teachers in every school countywide!
All my life I have wanted to be a scientist but never really followed through with any education to officially make that happen. Instead, I brought my love of science to my students. To be honest, the scientists I met at the Smithsonian and through the SSEAT were the first real scientists I have ever met. I was a little starstruck by some of the people we met, and I could not let that go to waste. It would be a shame if the only good it did were lost on this old lady who doesn't have time to go back and put their inspiration to use! So I got to thinking....
As a part of my job, I teach a girls programming class at our Early College and Career Center. The class was formed to give a unique opportunity to young ladies in an effort to reduce the gender gap in STEM careers. One of the battles we fight is that young girls do not see female scientists who can serve as role models, especially not in my small rural area in Kentucky. Over the course of this trimester, I am bringing seven women in STEM fields into our classroom to share their stories and details about their careers with my female students. Recently, we had a Google Hangout with DaNel Hogan, who was a leader at SSEAT. DaNel has also connected us with Sharon O'Neal, aDirector at Raytheon Missile Systems, and we will be speakingwith her. I immediatelyconnected withVanessa Arjona from the Department of Energy when she came to talk to us about hydrogen fuel cell technologies on the last day of the SSEAT. She has also agreed to speak to my class. Our community partners at Dow Chemical also sent over some chemical engineers for these students to chat with. The speakers we have had so far have been nothing short of amazing and inspiring! I am actually jealous of my students at this point because their eyes are being opened up to a wide world of STEM fields and opportunities. So far, two of my female students have already made connections with the women we have met and are planning visits or corresponding via email with them. Another two are planning to pursue a career path in STEM, which they weren't sold on before. The connections I made at SSEAT are truly changing these young ladies lives...and yes, I am tearing up a bit as I write that.