4th Annual STEM Summit

Longwood University’s Institute for Teaching Through Teaching and Innovative Practices (ITTIP) hosted the Fourth Annual STEM Learning Summit on January 27, 2011. The theme of the summit, “NOW Strategies,” focused on the goal of creating strategies for motivating students to enter science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) fields.

Longwood President, General Patrick Finnegan, welcomed approximately 65 teachers and administrators of grades K-12 who attended the event. “We must educate flexible thinkers with agile minds who can adapt to and resolve problems they have not confronted before,” said Finnegan. “We can’t even try to teach them all the answers, because no one even knows all the questions. What we can and must do is teach them how to think, how to solve problems, and how they must continue to learn throughout their lives.”

Throughout the day, a variety of speakers addressed preparing students for the workforce in fields of science, technology, engineering and technology; examining emerging jobs in the second decade of 21st century; and integrating STEM in early learning and literacy.

Ken Wesson, an educational consultant with Science Master and former writer for Science IQ magazine, presented “Brain STEM: Merging STEM and Current Brain Research.” Wesson discussed the neuroscience of learning and methods for creating classrooms and learning environments that are “brain-considerate.” In his remarks Wesson reminded the audience that learning is hierarchical and is best achieved within an optimal time frame and that skill development cannot be omitted or delayed without having a significant impact on later learning. “Students may forget what you say but they will never forget how they feel,” said Wesson.

Author and illustrator, Peter H. Reynolds presented “Connecting the Dots Between the Arts & STEM,” a creative and interactive session that focused on his books, The Dot and Ish. Reynolds discussed the importance of allowing students and adults the opportunity to dream and reflect on things that work or do not work. Reynolds is an illustrator for the New York Times #1 bestseller, Someday, by Alison McGhee. He is also the illustrator of Little Boy, Charlie and Kiwi and the Judy Moody series. His company, FableVision Studios, creates award-winning websites, games, activities, animated films, interactive graphic novels, museum kiosks, digital storybooks, desktop applications, and iPhone apps. Each conference attendee received a copy of Reynolds’ book, Water Wonder (donated by ITTIP) and A Few of Me (donated and signed by Reynolds)

Dr. Glen Bull, the Samuel Braley Gray Professor in Mathematics Education at the University of Virginia, along with several of his graduate students, presented a digital fabrication project that allows elementary students to translate a digital design into a physical object. The team demonstrated several paper-fabricated objects including an electric motor, turning lampshades, and a working speaker.

Sharon Bowers, educator-in-residence at the National Institute of Aerospace, presented “Virtual Worlds for STEM Learning” using Active universe. Her talk focused on the NASA resources for educators that promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as various design challenges sponsored by NASA. Bowers encouraged attendees to recruit teachers and students and to work as teams of engineers and scientists to explore and design solutions to real-world problems.

Dr. Al Byers, assistant executive director of government partnerships and e-learning at the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), discussed professional development strategies for science teachers and shared resources for training modules and other online learning opportunities offered by NSTA.

Bonnie Bracey Sutton, from the George Lucas Foundation, closed the program with a discussion on cyber bullying. She provided links to the Cyber Bullying web site where teachers and parents can download resources to stop cyber bullying.

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