Moving forward professionally, I am very interested in centering my instruction around project-based learning, in a way that incorporates content across multiple disciplinary areas, particularly math, science, engineering and technology. In my 6th grade classroom, I see the level of student engagement rise dramatically when students work in small groups on real problems. This year, students completed an engineering design project in which small groups of 2-3 students designed and built anemometers or wind vanes. The students were highly engaged in researching, sketching, discussing and building prototypes of their designs. As they tested their designs and watched their classmates, they learned from each other and made large and small adjustments to their devices. This project took about four 100-minute class periods to complete. I struggle with taking extended amounts of class time for creative, collaborative projects like this, with such an emphasis in the current educational system on covering the standards and preparing for standardized tests.
My challenge as a teacher is to choose or create projects that hit on key learning standards in math and science while allowing student thinking and creativity to flourish. This will take time and thoughtful planning. I also have thought partners in this effort. The MSUrbanSTEM program has allowed me to connect with 50 CPS teachers who are committed to growing as STEM educators. I also have a group of thoughtful, creative and hard-working teachers at my school that I can connect with on a daily or weekly basis. Additionally, my presence on twitter and specifically, my connection to other STEM educators, is a valuable tool moving forward.