STEM Think Tank & Conference

Each year, the Center for STEM Education for Girls hosts the annual STEM Think Tank & Conference.  This is an excellent opportunity for educators to discuss the latest trends in STEM education through the specific lens of girls’ education.  This year’s theme: Cultivate Your Network – Growing Sustained STEM.  Once again, this year’s conference did not disappoint.

Three sessions were noteworthy.

Keynote Speaker Terri McCullough, CEO of No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project spoke on the gender gap in STEM education, specifically highlighting the substantive decline in girls majoring in computer science over the past twenty years.  No Ceilings also offers a significant amount of data for use in the classroom to analyze gender gaps under a number of specific indicators.

What is disappointing about No Ceilings is the lack of data.  Some data for some indicators is not available for the past ten years – or very few countries have reported data.  This isn’t the fault of No Ceilings but more indicative, perhaps, of the lack of interest in collecting such data.

In the session Using Twitter for Community Engagement and Active Learning in the Upper School, educators Margaret Ann Minihan and Carolyn Thompson Tapp from Louise S. McGehee School in New Orleans discussed how “using Twitter with upper school students in a humanities course can broaden your students’ learning in an authentic, professional way while teaching valuable digital citizenship skills.”  In the school’s AP Government course, students are required to identify an issue to research, with the long-term goal of writing a piece of legislation.  In and of itself, that’s really cool.

To support the learning, students are required to develop a professional online, social media presence.  This includes a professional Twitter account (no Justin Bieber fan-dom here!) and a professional LinkedIn.  This approach is very savvy as it leads students from being digital citizens to digital leaders.  Brilliant strategy!

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As part of the project, students seek out appropriate people to follow on Twitter to inform their project as opposed to simply doing research on Google.  As a capstone to the project, students travel to Washington, DC, where they seek to meet with the Congressman/woman or Senator best suited to help them with their legislation.  This is such an awesome project and such an awesome example of authentic learning.

Finally, I attended a session by Licia Kovich from Laurel School in Ohio that focused on Communicating Design Work Through Engineering Drawings.  Now I’m no artiste, but we learned about scaling and how to sketch both orthographic and isometric drawings.  In a world where we often do things digitally, to be able to grab a pencil and represent drawing on good old fashioned graph paper was both challenging and fun.  In the same way that graphing is a lost art, engineering drawings have become a lost art as well.  I can’t wait to have my students do engineering drawings for their Physics and Social Entrepreneurship project!

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Yes, you too can be an artist!

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