The new year is set to be another exciting opportunity for expanding STEM teaching and learning in Tennessee. As the first month of the new year ends, let’s look at the year ahead for the Network and the opportunities for educators at all district and school levels to join us on the journey:
Tennessee STEM School Designation
In November 2016, the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) released a STEM Strategic Plan to serve as a roadmap for ensuring our state’s students have the knowledge and STEM skills necessary for future success in college, career, and life. The strategic plan was created in partnership with the state’s STEM Leadership Council and seeks to provide all students access to rigorous STEM learning experiences. A key component of the strategic plan calls for the creation of a STEM School Designation process that will enable TDOE to recognize self-nominating schools for their use of STEM strategies and design principles that lead to quality learning experiences for students. While the details of the designation process are still to come, it is important to know that the STEM Leadership Council is currently drafting a process that we hope will allow schools to seek designation in the 2017-2018 school year. To review the STEM Strategic Plan in full, click here.
School Site Visits
There is no better way to learn new teaching and learning strategies than to see STEM in action. Schools across Tennessee are integrating STEM learning in different ways and there are multiple benefits to observing pioneering strategies at work. Now, finding innovative school models to visit is easier than ever. TSIN has partnered with schools across the state to arrange guided tours on specific dates. To view the tour schedule that will begin in February and join a visit, click here. Registration is required.
Innovative Educator Workshops: Professional Development
The network’s 7 Regional STEM Innovation Hubs are committed to giving educators the resources and skills they need to expand STEM learning both inside and outside of the classroom. Hubs provided targeted and aligned professional development on a variety of topics through Innovative Educator Workshops. Each regional hub will be offering workshops this summer, in addition to opportunities to connect during regional meetings over the coming months. The network will also be expanding its outreach to rural districts with additional targeted workshops and programs to launch in the coming months.
Tennessee STEM Innovation Summit
The Innovation Summit returns for its third year on May 24 & 25 in Murfreesboro, bringing together leaders, innovators, and champions from across the state that are united by a passion to advance excellence in STEM education for all Tennesseans. It is vital that our classrooms connect young people to the knowledge and practices that inspire creative thinkers, innovators, and problem solvers that prepare them to accept the responsibilities of global citizenship in an ever-changing world. This year’s theme of Connecting Classrooms to the World allows us to explore how schools are integrating content into real-world settings, infusing unique business partnerships into the classroom, and providing experiential learning opportunities for students to more fully investigate the world around them through foundations in STEM education. Did we mention that Jack Hanna is keynoting this year’s Innovation Summit and plans to bring plenty of his animal friends to inspire our partners? Click here for more Summit information and to purchase tickets.
Last October, TSIN launched MakerMinded – a statewide competition geared toward using STEM activities to reshape existing mindsets about advanced manufacturing careers. The program is open to middle and high schools and provides schools with an amazing inventory of quality STEM programs that are engaging for students. We’ve even created partnerships for local experiences for schools, like candy factory tours to see manufacturing in action and experiences in makerspaces! Participating is easy: the more STEM activities schools log, the more points a school receives in the competition! And don’t forget – the winning schools will be recognized at the Tennessee STEM Innovation Summit in May and receive virtual reality technology for their schools! Learning Blade is a featured MakerMinded activity and schools are eligible to receive points for completed missions. Learn more about MakerMinded.
Learning Blade continues to be offered as a free resource for Tennessee’s middle schools as a key program in addressing the network’s goal to raise students’ awareness for future STEM careers in middle school. Learning Blade is designed to provide engaging resources that will expose students to STEM related career opportunities and help them develop key skills as they progress through middle school into high school. Learning Blade is now creating lessons for your 3D Printer that coincide with the 12 Missions in the free Learning Blade career awareness software. Designed for the novice 3D printer, MakerQuest will help get your feet wet in the expanding world of additive manufacturing. The lessons plans provide step by step instructions plus the necessary 3D printable files so you can immediately get started using your 3D printer. To request a free Learning Blade account, click here.
Innovative Leaders Institute
This year, we will launch the fourth cohort of the Innovative Leaders Institute (ILI)! The ILI is a year-long training and mentoring experience for educators led by some of the top STEM and innovative school leaders in our state. The ILI provides participants opportunities to network with other building-level leaders from across Tennessee, visit innovative schools to examine different models of STEM integration, and share best practices and resources with the expectation of having an immediate impact on leader practice. Almost 90 leaders have completed the ILI to date! Plan your team and mark your calendar: we plan to open recruitment and accept applications for the 2017-2018 ILI in May! To learn more about the TASL approved ILI, click here.
By: Wes Hall, Director, TSIN