This week, stakeholders from across the country came together in Washington DC to work on advancing STEM education at the Next Steps Institute. With folks from Colorado, Alabama, Michigan, Arizona, and across the eastern seaboard, we saw the powerful impact of working together towards a common goal.
Cindy Hasselbring, the Special Assistant to the State Superintendent: Special Projects – MD, spoke about how we as educators and influencers need to change the way we brand STEM. Instead of saying we’re all ‘nerds’ or that ‘math is hard’, we need to say ‘math is hard, it’s challenging, and it can be fun to be challenged.’
Dennis Chestnut, Executive Director of GroundworkDC spoke of the integration of 21st century skills through science, saying, “Science is asking questions and then working to try to find the answers to those questions.”
Throughout the two-days, participants worked in specific pathways of learning to dig deep, and to explore connections and solutions in areas of environment and sustainability, agriculture, cross-sector partnerships, and engineering.
On day two, Kim Cherry, the Deputy Chief of STEM at District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), spoke of the urgency around STEM, especially with minority students, saying, “If we continue to produce a community of test takers, we will fail. We need to produce a community of learners and thinkers.”
Jay Labov, a Senior Advisor for Education and Communications for the National Research Council, brought the Institute full-circle with a two-hour interactive session to put the knowledge gained into action. Labov stressed that it will take a concerted effort of dedicated partners working together to truly improve STEM education in the United States.
Attendees participated in a role-play activity, where everyone assumed a role within the education field (educator, corporation, administration, university, etc.) and brought their individual concerns to the table. Together, the groups came together to create a common agenda. It gave participants a glimpse into the work it takes to gain buy-in, balance compromise, and create a strong foundation towards change.
Thank you to all those that made the 2014 Next Steps Institute possible including CHS, DuPont, General Motors, and Carolina Biological. Also, thank you to our support partners STEMconnector, Afterschool Alliance, NOAA, WestEd, DCEEC, and the Smithsonian Science Education Center.