Science STEM STEMpact

St. Louis area educators attend leadership retreat at Washington University

It’s mid-June and while students are out on summer break, teachers never stop learning.

Victorious arms shoot up in the air as towers of playing cards sway precariously on tables. This simple card activity is an example of how teachers can help students develop identities as STEM-capable learners.

Participants of the STEM IQ team from University City admire their card tower.

About 50 educators from school districts throughout the St. Louis area gathered on Washington University’s Danforth Campus for the STEMpact Integration Quality (STEM IQ) Leadership Retreat. STEMpact IQ is STEMpact’s newest initiative, dedicated to supporting high-quality STEM integration in school systems, leading to exemplary practices and outcomes.

“STEM IQ is a deeper, more systematic approach to integrating science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in school districts. It allows for greater impact than a teacher by teacher approach,” said Victoria L. May, executive director of STEMpact and executive director of WashU’s Institute for School Partnership. “Instead of asking ‘What does STEM look like in your classroom? We’re asking, what does STEM look like throughout your district?'”

In the 2017-2018 school year, STEMpact gave up to $10,000 in funds to four school districts – Hillsboro, Jennings, City of St. Charles and University City – to implement a unique STEM program. In total, it’s a three-year initiative.

The retreat was a chance for the STEM IQ teams to reflect on the past year and plan for the next.
“This is about sharing successes and challenges,” May said. “We are about continuous improvements. We are about taking those lessons learned and making it better.”

They are STEM disciples

The programs created by the STEM IQ teams are varied. They range from curriculum development for STEM project-based learning, to district level professional development programs to a three-year STEM certification program.

STEMpact’s Victoria May (left) and Deborah Holmes (center) work with the STEM IQ team from Hillsboro School District.

And for the City of St. Charles School District, its efforts are already paying off.  In March, the STEM IQ team received the 2018 Outstanding Team Award from the Missouri Staff Development Council for its STEM for All professional development program, which is comprised of four main parts: STEM PD for all teachers PreK – 6; attendance at Washington University’s two-week summer STEM Teacher Quality camp; participation in the district’s multi-tiered, three-year STEM Academy and participation in the district’s Technology Leadership Academy.

“They are STEM disciples,” Barbara Pener, a STEMpact project coordinator, said of the St. Charles STEM IQ team. “They’re exposing STEM concepts to others in their building and across the district.”

Nicole Adams, instruction specialist, in the City of St. Charles School District said kids are growing up in a technological society that’s why it’s vital for teachers to integrate STEM into their lessons.

“We want all of our kids to graduate and be ready for this new world that we’re living in, and these experiences are getting them prepared to do that,” she said.

Carla Jefferson, science teacher at Jennings Junior High, feels her district is growing and making big jumps in integrating STEM.

“We feel like there’s a movement in Jennings. STEM initiatives are continuing to grow and spark excitement throughout the district – with teachers, students and our community,” she said.

STEMpact is a unique ongoing collaboration of the St. Louis area’s top STEM companies providing education and resources for teachers and school district to help STEM education thrive in the St. Louis region. The group’s mission statement is “prepare today’s students to become tomorrow’s STEM professional.” STEMpact is managed by WashU’s Institute for School Partnership.

June 2018 | by, Myra Lopez

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