Almost two years ago, one of my co-workers approached me about starting a STEM endorsement with her. It sounded like a great opportunity at first, but I immediately thought of all the reasons why it wouldn’t work. I was only a second year teacher (or officially a first year teacher since my internship didn’t count toward my license). Plus, I was spending a lot of time in and out of the classroom preparing for the coming days while simultaneously coaching freshman girls basketball at Bear River High School.
The cohort I would become a part of was only the second in the state. The continuing education credits (or part of the graduate credits) would be paid for by the Utah STEM Action Center. I would also have a teacher friend who would be on the journey with me. While it seemed daunting like a daunting task, I knew it was a great opportunity!
Thanks to some convincing & an awesome cousin/sophomore coach who assured me she could finish practice on the days I had to leave early, I decided to sign up for the first course, The Nature of Science & Engineering. I registered for the first course late, but before the next class session I recruited two more teachers from our district to join in on the learning experience.
Throughout our endorsement, we took six classes:
- The Nature of Science & Engineering
- Energy in STEM
- Force in STEM
- Matter in STEM
- Data Analysis for K-8 Teachers
- STEM Practices
While most of our classes were broadcast from USU’s regional campus in Kaysville, we spent the first month of summer commuting two hours to and from the outskirts of Tooele! I was not super thrilled about all the driving and wondered why we couldn’t just buy all the supplies we would need & do it via broadcast, but the hands on experiences with energy, force, & matter, & being able to meet face to face & collaborate with the people who I had only seen on the screen, were definitely some of my favorites experiences from the endorsement.
Energy & matter are cross-cutting concepts in science. They can be found in any discipline of science, so regardless of the grade level each member of our cohort taught, we were able to apply it to our current science core! I was teaching fifth grade at the time, so it was fun to try & identify energy & matter’s role in our science content (other than the obvious connections like the law of conservation of matter or electricity). I actually spent the rest of my summer hyper aware of energy… where it came from & where it was going. I definitely felt like an energy nerd!!!
We did a lot of lesson planning in those three weeks in Tooele (link to lessons at the end of the post)! Some of them were done individually while others were done collaboratively as a grade level team. Since our endorsement was K-8, we got to hear all different presentations for different grade levels. It was interesting to hear the 6-8 teachers explain their lesson/unit ideas since they have already adopted the SEEd standards (K-5 will implement the SEEd standards starting fall 2020!).
After three weeks of being with each other everyday, you would think we would be ready for some space, but I was really sad I wouldn’t see some of my new friends every day! We finished off our endorsement with another broadcasted class where we talked more about STEM practices & how we might implement STEM in our own classroom.
I am really glad I had the opportunity to complete my STEM endorsement. I am grateful for the teacher friends who showed up for late night classes, commuted four hours a day for three weeks to get to our face-to-face classes in Tooele, & all the new connections I was able to make with teachers outside of my district.
I feel like this endorsement not only helped shift my way of thinking about science education & helped me become a better STEM educator, but it also prepared me to roll out the new SEEd standards next fall!
One last thing… Tawnie (my aunt, who was my partner in crime during our endorsement) & I were quite the rocket engineers. Our only materials were card stock & tape. We may not look the part, but we had one of the only rockets that didn’t blow up on the first launch. In fact, we launched our rocket three different times & it still looked good as new!
If you are interested in seeing some of my lesson plans or reflection papers, click here!