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VCSU Science Faculty Earn Praise for STEM Workshop

Sep. 04, 2008 3:08 PM | Updated: Sep. 18th, 2008 7:34 PM
Devils Lake K-12 Faculty Give Rave Reviews

Science faculty members from VCSU took time out of their summer schedules to respond to a request from VCSU alum Ryan Hanson '92. Hanson is now the principal at Devils Lake High School and was looking for a way to beef-up the curriculum in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics -- the so-called STEM fields. These subjects, and the ability of the nation's teachers to teach them to K-12 students today, has drawn a considerable amount of attention lately, and with it, focus from forward-thinking educators.

"With the ever-changing world we are in, it is absolutely imperative to prepare our kids for the future," said Hanson. "The best way to do that is to make sure our teachers are well prepared."

So Hanson went right to the experts: he contacted Dr. Joe Stickler, the Chair of VCSU's Division of Mathematics, Science and Health & Physical Education to ask about the possibility of arranging for a workshop for his faculty. Stickler put Hanson in touch with Don Hoff, associate professor of science. Hoff, who taught high school science for more than 20 years, said, "I had a good idea of what they were looking for."

Hoff and other members of the science faculty put together a set of presentations aimed at improving the capabilities of all teachers in Devils Lake to include STEM topics as they teach. "All of these presentations took a 'hands-on, minds-on' approach. Our hope was that the teachers could apply this material to any grade level they taught," said Hoff.

Two of Hoff's presentations were on Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation. To give it the 'hands-on, minds-on' approach, he put the material into the context of a geocaching format that has become very popular in recent years. He also gave presentations on the geologic history of the earth and on space science history using support materials from NASA. Dr. Andre DeLorme presented on pond ecology, watersheds and drainage, and identification of water insects. Dr. Hilde Van Gijssel borrowed an idea from the 'Myth-Busters' television program to encourage students to use the scientific method to test ideas to determine whether or not they are scientifically sound. Bob Anderson presented on fish identification and ecology (limnology) and on bird identification and ecology (ornithology).

Hanson said the workshop was very well received by the 26 teachers who attended. "It was very successful, and got our teachers excited about extending the curriculum in STEM subjects."

In addition to the workshop hosted at Devils Lake High School, VCSU's Technology Education department hosted a separate STEM workshop over the summer entitled "Closing the Technology and Engineering Teaching Gap." That workshop introduced K-12 teachers to the STEM based curriculum developed by the Boston Museum of Science and the National Center for Technological Literacy (NCTL). Thirty-five teachers attended from schools across the region.
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