The California STEM Institute for Innovation and Improvement (CSI3) at California State University, Dominguez Hills hosted a STEM Day for the New Teacher Summer Institute (NTSI) given by Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The district conducts NTSI for its incoming teachers.
CSI3 was invited by LAUSD to facilitate a day of training that demonstrated and explained how to implement innovative STEM activities into the classroom. In turn, CSI3 prepared a full day of workshops, speakers and panelists engaging teachers in various STEM fields.
The day revolved around nine interactive and collaborative workshops. After each workshop, facilitators provided participants with lesson plans of the interactive STEM activities they performed so that NTSI participants could incorporate lively, STEM learning into their classes.
In some workshops, teachers were challenged to construct a perfect parachute, make connections between real-world applications and mathematics or build a tower from gummy worms and toothpicks that could support the weight of a textbook. Another instance, a facilitator showed how teachers can employ Youtube videos and other technology to reconstruct the meaning of time. In a different workshop, participants learned about force and gravity with playful pulleys. While these are some examples of the dynamic workshops offered at the NTSI Stem Day, overall, the range of workshops turned rigorous and challenging STEM ideas into fun and exciting undertakings.
For the day, the keynote speaker was LAUSD School Board Member George McKenna. A former math teacher who became a nationally recognized leader in K-12 education for transforming a severely under-performing school in South Los Angeles as principal, he inspired NTSI participants with his story of how he embarked on a career in education. While offering advice on sustaining and maintaining a fulfilling teaching career, McKenna said that teaching is a sacred profession that must be protected and taken seriously because it changes the world.
The morning guest speaker, Kantis Simmons, a former NASA scientist and STEM education advocate, explained different ways that teachers can present STEM in everyday scenarios that make it both accessible and interesting.
Additionally, a panel of educators working in high-needs schools offered valuable advice and suggestions on being effective and successful in the classroom. Thomas Medina, a special education teacher at Nova Learning Academy, said that he learned how to advocate for students, while Krystle Braxton ― recognized as a “teacher of the year” by LAUSD and a teacher at Animo James B. Taylor Charter Middle School ― talked about the significance of learning to collaborate with other teachers and seeking out a high-performing veteran educators for mentorship.
In addition, Simone Charles, principal of Mervyn M. Dymally High School, who spoke on the lunchtime panel, stressed to teachers that they speak up and ask for help when needed and learn how to work with the resources given. Other panelists, Roxanne Medina, a teacher at Alondra Middle School, told how she learned to explain and provide explicit details of her expectations to students rather than assuming that they knew; whereas, Marshay Calloway, a teacher at Diego Rivera Learning Complex-Communication and Technology High School, said that teachers must approach their profession with the understanding that teaching transcends classroom learning because it impacts students for life.
The goal of the day was to provide a holistic, engaging, informative and challenging day that empowered and renewed teachers’ approaches and ideas around STEM. On August 3, CSI3 will hold another STEM day for LAUSD’s New Teacher Summer Institute.