NCTAF Highlights Learning Studios at Maryland Summit
On November 15th, 2012, NCTAF brought a variety of stakeholders together for a lively discussion about improving STEM education in order to meet the needs of the future workforce. “Learning Studios: Collaborating in Today’s Schools to Build Tomorrow’s Workforce” featured Maryland state education leaders, industry representatives, and teachers. The event highlighted NCTAF’s STEM Learning Studios initiative as a program that improves education through innovative partnerships and a focus on cross-disciplinary collaboration between teachers and industry partners.
“Partnerships are the spark that makes things happen in education,” said Tom Carroll, president of NCTAF. His opening remarks calling for collaboration resonated throughout several panelists’ talks that highlighted the importance of partnerships in their work towards supporting teachers and engaging students in STEM fields. It was exciting to hear the creative ways that the state of Maryland and its districts are approaching STEM efforts to engage students.
A dynamic panel of Learning Studios practitioners invigorated the Summit agenda, sharing the impact of the partnership between teachers and industry that NCTAF’s Learning Studios have fostered. Alan Kostrick, a computer science teacher at Hammond High School in Howard County, began by quoting fellow Learning Studios teachers. “STEM professionals can bring authentic work experiences and activities to our students, making their lessons more meaningful,” one teacher noted. “We are teaching the same things, just in a different way,” said Alan, focusing on how Learning Studios offer a process, rather than a packaged curriculum. As a teacher-focused organization, NCTAF was delighted that current and former teachers comprised the majority of the audience!
Mike Doellefeld, the Director of Aviation and Regulatory Affairs for The Boeing Company (a STEM Learning Studios partner organization), discussed the importance of mentoring for encouraging students to pursue STEM fields. As an integral part of a Learning Studios team in Anne Arundel, Mike has had the opportunity to bring the perspective of an engineer to the classroom, serving as a content expert to students and teachers. Hearing about Mike’s experience working and learning alongside teachers was an encouraging reminder of the power of collaboration.
Duane Arbogast, the Chief Academic Officer of Prince George’s County Public Schools, talked about the role of the district as a Learning Studios partner: creating the space for innovation to happen. He noted that Learning Studios provide the space for “thinking moves” from a content expert such as Mr. Doellefeld to become “teaching moves” in schools. “It’s about asking the right question at the right moment to the right kid. It’s among teachers, with teachers, and that’s the beauty of this program.”
At the close of the program, Ted Imes, Director of Corporate Citizenship for Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Systems Sector, led a passionate call to action. “We can’t find today’s engineer. That’s why we support this. It is real for us,” Ted said. He emphasized that all constituencies must work together to create a culture change in our schools, so that the work towards student engagement in STEM fields can be self-sustaining. We all have a role to play in creating this change!