NAMPA —Barb Friedt has pipe cleaner, foil and Play-Doh plus two index cards with instructions. She has to solve an engineering challenge called “Help Harry!”
Friedt and two other teachers work together to create a house for Harry, a plastic frog.
This is part of a four-day professional development program called i-STEM, hosted by the Idaho STEM Action Center in collaboration with private and public organizations in Idaho.
Nearly 330 teachers, future teachers and librarians returned to the classroom to learn new teaching skills around science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Project-based learning and mentorship is the focus of the program.
“Teaching is a team sport and that is why I’m here to learn new ideas and material to bring back to my school,” said Friedt said, a kindergarten teacher at Boise’s Pierce Park Elementary.
“By doing hands-on projects in the classroom, students build confidence in STEM and see it as something they can do,” said Kaitlin Maguire, with the Idaho STEM Action Center. “STEM can be fun and it allows students to know the potential careers they can have.”
Educators are learning to:
- Integrate robotics in the classroom.
- Use drones in the classroom.
- Engage students with data collection and analysis through the lens of energy use.
- Examine threats to wildlife posed by development in the state.
- Use hands-on math and art skills to create paper folding projects.
- Explore the sciences of astronomy and space exploration.
- Track how unicellular organisms, tissues, organs, organ systems, organisms, populations, communities, ecosystems and biosphere build off of each other and work together.
“When teachers learn, more kids are getting new opportunities,” said Brenda Mckenzie, a kindergarten teacher at Boise’s Valley View Elementary.
The program is at the College of Western Idaho, College of Southern Idaho and College of Eastern Idaho this week. Educators participated last week at Lewis and Clark State College, North Idaho College and Idaho State University.
All the participants will go home with a STEM materials kit worth nearly $300 to use in their classroom and receive continuing education credits.