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As a leader in STEM education innovation, the Office of STEM Education Partnerships (OSEP) offered new workshops for K-12 teachers of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) this summer. A new professional development series featured STEAM, which adds the arts to STEM. In addition, workshops in Kentucky are giving rural teachers access to cutting-edge science activities through the use of remote laboratories.

In the new series of STEAM workshops at Northwestern, 115 teachers gained an innovative slant on how to strengthen STEM teaching by injecting the arts. The series follows up on a successful STEAM Summit held at Northwestern earlier this year with the Segal Design Institute, which brought to campus K-12 leaders in STEAM education to share ideas and discuss engaging youth for integrated work in design, art, engineering, math and science.

STEAM workshop

This summer, four professional development workshops offered hands-on activities that incorporated the power of the arts for STEM education:

  • STEAM: Integrating STEM and the Arts – A full-day professional development workshop for middle school teachers explores the connection between the artistic process and STEM discovery.
  • Novel Engineering for Middle School – A one-day workshop used literature as a basis for engineering design challenges.
  • Design Thinking in STEM – In a three-day workshop teachers learned the process of design thinking used by leading universities and industries. Segal Design Institute faculty offered tools for teachers to integrate design projects into the curriculum
  • STEAM Teams – A two-day workshop brought together teams of teacher from the same school in different disciplines. They designed ways to integrate perspectives from each area of STEAM.

“Integrating arts and design with traditional STEM disciplines into the classroom can spark creativity and out-of-the-box thinking for both teachers and students,” according to OSEP. Staff members Kristen Perkins and Anne Stevens teamed up with Segal Design Institute faculty to facilitate the new STEAM workshop series, which added to the existing lineup of professional development series of seven workshops in biotechnology and three in STEM education.

In another novel professional development offering this summer, OSEP curriculum developer Ashley Walter traveled to Morehead State University in Kentucky to give a workshop for middle school and high school teachers on OSEP’s remote laboratories, known as iLabs. The workshop, offered in partnership with Stanford University, features remote access to a Stanford microaquarium that allows students to test the response of Euglena to light.

“iLabs lets students have access to equipment that they wouldn’t normally have access to,” says Walter. “It lets students interact and get real data they can manipulate and interpret.” As a way to experience more authentic science, students can design their own experiments and get practice in scientific explanation. The lab activities tie in with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Common Core standards.

Walter will return to Kentucky for two sessions on remote labs at a STEMposium on September 26 hosted by Alltec, a biotechnology company. One hundred middle school and high school teachers, primarily from rural areas, are scheduled to attend. OSEP’s remote laboratories project gives teachers and students remote access to equipment at a number of universities, along with curriculum activities.

The goal of OSEP, which is directed by SESP professor Kemi Jona, is to serve as a liaison between K-12 schools and the cutting-edge resources of Northwestern University. OSEP provides resources to schools through professional development as well as student-centered STEM learning studios and STEM research opportunities for K-12 students.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 9/2/15


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