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STEM School Tours Generate New Ideas

STEM School tours are exciting events for expanding STEM teaching and learning throughout Tennessee. March’s tour schedule provided opportunities for educators in West TN (Shelby County), Middle TN (Putnam County), and East TN (Knox County) to observe divergent STEM instructional styles and practices, program types, and innovative integration strategies within a school.

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Prescott South Elementary & Prescott South Middle School Tour

Prescott South Elementary School and Prescott South Middle School students, in Cookeville, TN, are exposed regularly to professional guest speakers that connect education to careers.  Students are excited to become the next generation of chemists, engineers, teachers, and attorneys.

“The staff there was incredible, openly sharing so many creative ideas for STEM lessons across all subject areas. We all took home several pages of notes filled with innovative ideas on ways to better connect our students learning across concept areas, on all grade levels, in ways that will result in students developing a much deeper understanding of the concepts we are teaching.” Margie Hawkins, PAEMST Recipient, STEM specialist, Middle School Science Teacher.

Visiting STEM schools helps educators and administrators acquire new skills or ideas along with concrete examples of those ideas/skills in action. For more great ideas and resources for elementary school STEM visit Prescott South Elementary’s STEM-athon page.

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Houston Middle & Houston High School Tour

Participants who attended the Houston Middle and High School tour, in Germantown, TN, got to see a progression of STEM learning in robotics programming from the middle grades through high school. Students also explained how many of their projects are a form of service learning.  Service learning is a critical aspect of the academic and personal growth for students. Service learning provides students with an opportunity to step outside the classroom, put newly learned skills to work, and discover more about the world we share. For example, Houston Middle and High School students who participate in the West Tennessee Branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Canstruction Jr competition, construct architectural models that are completely student-designed using only canned food items. All canned food from the competition is donated to the Mid-South Food Bank:  https://www.memphiscanstructionjr.org/. Watch this video to gather other great ideas from Germantown Municipal School District’s ‘Spotlight on Excellence’ with Superintendent Jason Manuel.

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L & N STEM Academy Tour

One thing that stuck out to participants during the L & N STEM Academy tour, in Knoxville, TN, was the amazing focus on growth mindset. Students valued being a member of the school community and were proud of the school environment. L & N also has a high number of students who fall on the autism spectrum, and leadership shared innovative strategies to provide the necessary supports to ensure every student’s success. L & N’s focus on high standards, individualized learning plans, and community partnerships ensures that every student has equitable access to challenging coursework, exceptional instruction, and empowering relationships with mentors. Click here to hear current and former students highlight their experiences at L & N STEM Academy.

The Tennessee STEM Innovation Network looks forward to another round of idea generating STEM school tours in the fall of 2017. If your school or district would like to share your successful STEM strategies, sign up here for the next round of STEM school site visits!

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