Take Your Teaching to the Next Level by Incorporating Children’s Engineering/STEM

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Jill Carlton, M.S.Ed., Gifted Resource Teacher and Jade Cattell, MAT, 4th Grade Teacher

Albert Einstein said, “To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.” This quote embodies what children’s engineering is all about.  Each year, the Virginia Children’s Engineering Council sponsors a conference to reinforce and guide Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math instruction-with an emphasis on the T & E. This year, we were given the opportunity to attend this event and represent our school, Ocean View Elementary, located in Norfolk, Virginia. This was our first time attending the convention and it was definitely one to remember! We’d like to thank our administrators, Dr. Peterson and Ms. Jolley-Washington, for their support in continuing our professional development.

Once we registered for the VCEC Convention, we had to select the sessions that we would attend. This was an arduous task given the numerous engaging and interesting topics provided, which included: Teaching Logical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Perseverance Using Computer Coding; Making Engineering the Foundation of a Problem-Based Learning Unit; Makerspace Projects and Implementations; Roller Coaster Magic; Thinking Like an Engineer as a Kid; Getting Started with Robotics and Programming; Integrating Maker Stations in your Classroom; Connecting Literature to STEM; Fraction Action; Green STEAM: Using Upcycled Goods to Engineer in Elementary School; Linking Science and Literacy with Problem-Based Learning, just to name a few. Luckily, the convention’s Schedule-at-a-Glance provided a synopsis of the different sessions and the target audience. We decided to “divide and conquer” and report back to one another to get the most information from as many sessions as possible. Of course, we both did some serious notetaking, eager to share all of the awesome information we were gaining. Even if our notes weren’t enough, we had access to the entire VCEC session materials (handouts, PowerPoints, lessons, etc.) on a shared internet folder.

We both agreed that every session was created with classroom teachers and the curriculum in mind. Because many of the presenters were educators, the presentations were useful and the information could be immediately implemented. The presenters were realistic about the time and budget constraints of public education. It was refreshing to leave a session with new methods to incorporate children’s engineering/STEM activities in the classroom. We could have literally taken the information from the sessions and put it into action on Monday!

The Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center was an amazing venue for this event. There was plenty of room for the sessions to incorporate hands-on activities, make and takes, and vendors. The main ballroom, where lunch was served, gave us opportunities to network and discuss educational practices with educators from other parts of the state and country. While eating lunch, we were able to listen to nationally renowned keynote speakers. These speakers were inspirational, passionate, and engaging. Louis Mangione, Senior Teaching Coach, shared highly effective strategies for engaging students with content. He also shared up-to-date developments in brain research. The second speaker was Dr. Frederic Bertley, Ph.D., COSI Chief Executive Officer. He discussed visionary initiatives supporting innovation in STEM learning. These speakers were inspirational, passionate, and engaging.

According to a White House press release in 2012, “The United States will need approximately 1 million more STEM professionals than are projected to graduate over the next decade.” Future careers are going to require critical thinking and knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This prediction should motivate you, as a teacher, to take advantage of attending conventions like the VCEC so your students are college and career ready.

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