It’s often the case that teachers go to seminars and workshops and get really excited, but then life takes over and that energy fizzles out. That’s exactly what Lisa Graham, a K-4 special education teacher at Coverdell Elementary School in the City of St. Charles School District, and Jessica Lawrence, who teaches fourth-grade at Harris Elementary in the same district, were trying to avoid after taking part in STEMpact’s two-week STEM Teacher Quality (STEM TQ) Institute at Washington University in St. Louis this past July. For a solution, they turned to social media.
“We talked about ways to stay together and decided that Facebook was the best way for us to not only stay in touch but also to showcase ideas and awesome STEM activities we are doing in our classrooms,” Graham said. “Jessica went home that night and created the page and we started spreading the word.”
“We had built so many relationships with so many districts in the St. Louis area,” Lawrence added, “we didn’t want to lose those connections when school started back.”
They called it STL Stemitized, and it has grown to over 250 members. The Facebook page describes itself as a place where people can show off how they are incorporating STEM concepts in their classrooms.
“It’s truly amazing the things that have been posted on there and the ideas that we can all gain,” Graham said. “Knowledge is power and we are all empowering each other by sharing experiences and ideas. I mean, what if somebody has this great idea that they do in their class and nobody knows about it?”
One of Lawrence’s favorite part of the Facebook page is when people post about activities they specifically learned about at STEM TQ, such as: paper-making, circuit boards, and STEM related classroom jobs.
Teresa Seavey, a gifted specialist with the Fox School District who was in the STEM TQ program with Graham and Lawrence, was one of the first people to join STL Stemitized. She jumped at the chance to share and glean ideas from others.
“I love seeing what other teachers are doing in their classrooms,” she said. “I love it all. I love to be someone who compliments and encourages others to keep trying new things. I want to inspire someone to try something from my classroom, that I have had success with. I love having a place to go for suggestions or encouragement.”
Seavey definitely believes being involved with the Facebook page has enhanced her teaching. Her favorite posts are pictures of kids “STEM-ing!”
“My heart sings to see kids learning that way,” she said.
A recent scan of the page shows teachers sharing a steady stream of STEM activities in their classrooms. They range from creating tall towers out of paper and tape, making recycled paper, building papier mache volcanoes that explode to improvising structures to protect homes from erosion. Meanwhile, other teachers post asking for ideas. ‘Hey STEMitizers! I need a cool idea for introducing heat to eight-graders,’ read one post from September. Another teacher asked for ideas for ‘STEM bins.’
Graham said the advantages of connecting on Facebook are that there are no word or space limits. In fact, she notes that teachers can upload an entire lesson plan.
“It’s bigger than what we ever thought it would be,” she said. “We kind of figured it would be 20 or 30 people, but almost every day we get a notification that somebody else wants to join.”
“We talked about it on the last day of STEM TQ and couldn’t believe how many times it was shared, “ Lawrence said.
While the page is geared toward teachers, Graham said it’s open to anybody, not just educators. She says current members include people who homeschool as well as stay-at-home parents.
“Anybody is welcome,” Graham said. “The more the merrier.”
STEMpact’s STEM TQ is a program managed by Washington University’s Institute for School Partnership. The year-long program teaches K-8 educators how to integrate STEM into all subjects and to connect STEM curriculum to the real world, student interests and future careers.
October 2018 | by, Myra Lopez