A bi-weekly column from the Office of the President

VCSU to host North Dakota science and math teachers

By: Margaret Dahlberg, Ph.D.
Date: Mar. 12th, 2018
Spring break is here, and most of our students are gone for the week—either traveling, working, or with family. We hope everyone is safe and returns to campus refreshed and ready to finish the semester next Monday.

Meanwhile, campus is certainly not closed! Enrollment Services has campus tours scheduled each day for prospective students, and some of us are finishing projects or catching up on paper grading. Every office is busy continuing our work with students to make sure they are supported effectively as they move toward graduation.

Spring break is a great time for conferences, and this year, on Friday and Saturday this week (March 16–17), Valley City State University will host more than 250 K-16 teachers, presenters, and exhibitors attending the collaborative STEAM conference of the North Dakota Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the North Dakota Science Teachers Association. The event will require the use of 25 classrooms on the VCSU campus, making use of every building on campus except Foss Hall and the Bubble.

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math—an approach to learning that integrates these fields in support of each other. Sometimes this is referred to as STEAM, and the “A” integrates the arts into this approach. In life, at work, we often synthesize knowledge of math, writing, and other fields as we make decisions or complete a project. STEAM offers the same type of combination, helping students improve their math or writing skills while they solve a physics problem, for example, or create an experimental design.

The conference theme this year, “Building Bridges to the Future,” underlines the importance of this approach to student learning: engaging our students in science and math during their formative years is essential to building a successful future world for all of us.

This type of teaching is not easy, as it requires careful planning and research to arrange lessons to develop integration. But it is well worth the time when students become engaged in their learning and develop positive attitudes about science and math. The STEAM conference is an exciting opportunity for math and science teachers to explore these new teaching approaches, meet their colleagues across the state, and learn from each other.

Some of the topics keynote speakers and presenters will focus on include “How to Create a Playful Pedagogy,” “The Future of STEM,” “The Uncanny Physics of Superhero Comic Books,” and “Paper Airplanes in the Classroom” (presented by John Collins, the “paper airplane guy” who holds the current Guinness World Record for paper airplane distance). Kirsten Baesler, state superintendent of public instruction, will provide the opening remarks.

Please help us welcome these dedicated teachers to our campus. By engaging students in STEM education, they are helping “Build Bridges to the Future.” This conference is organized by Dr. Jamie Wirth, associate professor of mathematics education and director of the Great Plains STEM Education Center (GPSEC) at VCSU, and Dr. Gary Ketterling, assistant professor of science and GPSEC education coordinator, along with the support of many VCSU faculty and staff. This year’s conference is supported by the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction, the North Dakota STEM Network, and Discovery Education.