Guest Post: Symposium Jumpstarts New Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Collaborations

Posted on April 22, 2011 by Guest Blogger

By Myriam Springuel, Executive Director, Science and Environment Council of Sarasota County

The Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Symposium evaluations are in, and respondents overwhelmingly found the evening to be of value. Here is snapshot of what we heard.

Participants hope to:

“To be able to expose more of our students to a wider array of opportunities in the world of work and beyond.”

“To create a network of community partners and educators acting together to enhance the quality of STEM education.”

“To use community resources to build more authentic lessons that tie curriculum to solving real world medical problems.”

The Science and Environment Council of Sarasota County, Sarasota County Schools, and The Patterson Foundation invited teachers, administrators, and nonprofit community organizations that are involved in STEM and have experience working with students. The goal of the evening was to begin the conversation on ways to create better collaborations to strengthen 6th-12th grade STEM education, to share a vision of what collaborations might look like, to make “connections”, and to learn about each other’s strengths.

Overall the symposium was a great gathering of 138 people sharing, learning, and discovering together. A steering committee of school district curriculum specialists and educators at nonprofit organizations deliberately developed a symposium process that stressed conversation, providing all participants with opportunities to find out how to best work together.

Superintendent of Sarasota County Schools Lori White welcomed participants and talked about the importance of experiential learning. Participants spent the rest of the evening in small group discussions brainstorming what each had to offer, resources they could bring to a collaboration, ways in which to partner, and how a collaboration could be seamless in a classroom experience.

All the discussions were open ended with ideas captured at each table. Some ideas surfaced repeatedly during the discussions, such as the need for a central database where teachers can get information about organizations and programs in one place; the need for organizations to better align their programs with curriculum benchmarks and the new instructional focus calendars; bringing the community’s expertise into the classroom, both in-person and through technology; ways to create project-based learning around real issues in the community; and the need for interdisciplinary connections that meet multiple benchmarks.

There were many more ideas – in fact, the notes from the evening’s discussion include more than 130 ideas. One of the most important ideas heard repeatedly is the need to continue the dialogue started that evening.

While the steering committee is setting priorities and looking at ways to facilitate some of these ideas, many collaborations are already starting to emerge as participants simply pick up the phone or email each other to continue the work started on Feb. 23.

While we can cite the results of the evaluation study available on the Cultural Connections with Students initiative page, perhaps the most gratifying result is the many people who left committed to following up with someone they met that evening and working together to improve STEM education.

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