I attended Day 1 of the consortium iSTEM workshop yesterday and the middle school. At the start the workshop was disappointing because we were told that the other districts that were supposed to be represented could not attend due to commitments regarding end of year activities in their own schools. A big reason why I was looking forward to participating was to hear from other colleagues about their iSTEM programs and to share and collaborate all of our ideas together. The facilitators did mention that Days 3 and 4 which will take place in mid-August will bring everyone together so I will remain hopeful.
With that said, the workshop was beneficial as they always are. I was able to get a much better understanding of what the “i” in iSTEM really means in terms of collaborating with other content area teachers and bringing science, technology, engineering, and math together in one course. There was a good discussion among Physics teachers and Life Science teachers regarding finding ways to develop good design challenges for life science. We also put together some great websites to help with the transition to NGSS in the near future:
NGSS Designing Curriculum Websites
This is the site with the model curriculum units from the state. Although it is broken up into a 6th, 7th, and 8th grade integrated science approach, if you search through each grade for your content area units, they are helpful when developing our own units.
This site contains lessons sorted by content and the NGSS.
This site contains many nonfiction texts that can be changed into a variety of reading levels.
This site is published by the NSTA and again groups lessons based on the NGSS.
It is always great to come away from a workshop with as much ammunition as possible. We also worked on an activity that incorporates a design challenge and looked at it from both the perspective of the student and the teacher. It involved contracting straw rockets to be launched from a steel rod attached to a compressed air machine. The goal was to get the rocket to land within a certain distance of a target. The idea of design and modification was well represented and I can easily use that next year in the classroom.
Two of my own questions were answered as well – one being not to get rid of the typical unit test that I would use in a general 8th grade science curriculum. Much of what I have been reading about the iSTEM classroom involves performance assessments and little mention of the typical unit test. But those tests are a great way to assess the individual student rather than the student who will latch onto the brightest member of their team and not have to do much work on their own. I also received positive feedback about my hope of utilizing digital engineering notebooks. So now I must familiarize myself with how to do that in Google Docs.
Today will be more of the same but with an emphasis on how to actually come up with a good design challenge and how to actually “Define a Problem” that is authentic and meaningful.