FLATE’s Educator Workshop Spurs Development of K-8 STEM Curriculum

FLATE’s curriculum and professional development tools are geared to equip educators, students, and industry with knowledge and skills that promote technician education and training. One of the focus of FLATE’s professional development efforts have centered not only on a regional, but a national push to engage girls in STEM. This has culminated over the years in a number of workshops that have enabled educators to refine and/or certify their knowledge base within manufacturing, and develop STEM based curricula for their schools that have long-term impact on technical education.

Christine Danger, STEM resource teacher and elementary science teacher at Hillsborough County Public
School was one such person who took advantage of the resources offered by FLATE. According to Danger, FLATE’s “Recruiting Girls to STEM Pathways” workshop offered in June served as a turning point in her quest to get more students engaged in STEM. “The research about why girls choose particular career pathways served as an eye opener for me” says Danger. In that it helped her get a better perspective why most girls choose a career where want to make a difference. The information presented during the workshop led her to show her students, particularly girls, how “being an engineer can help (or possibly even save) lives, animals, and the earth.”

The SEM, or the Science, Engineering, and Mathematics in STEM, are all interesting, but what really gets students excited about these subjects is “technology,” or the “t” in STEM. As a teacher, Danger found children love to play with technology. Armed with the knowledge she gained at the STEM workshop, and as part of Danger’s role as the first science resource teacher for SDHC, Danger set out to formulate a K-8 STEM program at Turner Elementary School and Bartels Middle School in Tampa.

As part of this effort, Danger has set-up engineering design challenge centers in all K-5 classrooms at Turner
Elementary School that integrates STEM concepts and engineering challenges into mainstream curriculum. “Our goal is to add connections to STEM careers into all subject areas” said Danger. Danger is creating a STEM lab where students can engage in hands-on engineering activities that complement science standards they are learning in class. Danger is also developing a robotics elective at Bartels Middle School and plans to start a robotics team in the school, and working on integrating technology into language arts by creating video games, and using technology to create presentations and videos. My long term goal is to help teachers understand how to teach engineering, and to get students and encourage students to exercise their creativity.”

In a quest to position STEM as fun, Danger collaborated with FLATE’s partner, Scientific League of Super
Heroes (see October 2013 FLATE Focus) to develop STEM based curriculum for fifth grade SDHC students. “The superhero theme is working to attract both boys and girls” said Danger. Using the “Super Heroes theme,” she has developed curriculum where students can research different STEM careers online that they find most interesting, and corresponding skills-set, or  “superpowers” like curing diseases, reducing pollution, developing new energy sources, improving communication systems, and growing food more efficiently. In general, I found girls are attracted to STEM careers when they find out that they can be creative, hands-on, collaborative, and the work they do can help people and the planet.” Boys on the other hand she notes, love to build things and compete. Danger hopes to eventually have 50% girls and 50% boys enrolled in the robotics/STEM elective.

Given her research and experience with STEM curriculum development, Danger presented her findings about engaging women/girls in STEM at the annual Florida Association of Science Teachers conference in Miami. For more information about FLATE’s STEM based curriculum and workshops visit www.madeinflorida.org and www.fl-ate.org, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org. For information on the SDHC K-8 STEM curriculum currently offered at Turner Elementary and Bartels Middle School in Tampa, contact Christine Danger at Christine.Danger@sdhc.k12.fl.us