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Posts tagged ‘STEM’

Wallingford Teacher’s STEM Enrichment Program Receives $100,000 Grant

NEA Foundation President and CEO Harriet Sanford, Wallingford Education Association President Louis Faiella, CEA President Sheila Cohen, and Wallingford teacher Christopher Stone.

When Pond Hill Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Christopher Stone founded the CT STEM Academy in Wallingford in 2012, he got a big assist from his state teachers union. The Connecticut Education Association provided a two-year, $10,000 grant to launch his after-school enrichment program, which, over the last five years, has opened the eyes of more than 15,000 students and their families to STEM skills and careers.

Recently, Stone and his colleagues scored another big win for their students when AT&T made a $100,000 contribution to the NEA Foundation to continue supporting the STEM Academy.

“CEA gave us funding to really build our base,” said Stone, thanking CEA President Sheila Cohen and Wallingford Education Association President Louis Faiella for “entertaining my ideas that were really outside the box.” Read more

Teachers Growing Community Through STEM

The public school teachers who run the Connecticut STEM Academy have a deep belief in STEM’s ability to engage students and in the importance of family and community involvement in student learning.

Since its founding in 2012, support from CEA, the NEA Foundation, and other groups has allowed the STEM Academy to multiply its program offerings, serving hundreds of students in many different Connecticut towns. The innovative enrichment program places a special emphasis on gender equity, cultural diversity, and direct family involvement.

Watch what the teachers who run the academy have to say about why the programs it offers are so important for students.

Woodstock Teacher Brings Lessons from Africa Back to Her Students

Woodstock Academy biology teacher Valerie May.

Woodstock Academy biology teacher Valerie May holds a darkling beetle she collected at the Mozambican national park. The insect uses its exoskeleton to collect dew, allowing it to live in very dry environments. (Photos courtesy of Valerie May.)

It was an incredible opportunity—spend ten days in and around Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park leading a professional development course and learning about the park and its mission. Woodstock Academy biology teacher Valerie May jumped at the chance.

“It was a big honor to be asked to lead the workshop,” May said.

May has worked with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for the past four years, leading workshops at national conferences and running workshops in several cities around the country. The organization is clearly impressed by May as they invited her and two other public school teachers, Cindy Gay from Colorado and Ann Brokaw of Ohio, to lead a two-day workshop in Mozambique this summer. Read more

Connecticut Teachers Talk Education with Members of the State’s Congressional Delegation while Attending a STEM Conference in Washington

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CEA member Kristen Record with Sen. Chris Murphy in D.C.

Stratford physics teacher Kristen Record and Guilford physics teacher Ernie Smoker were part of a group of 20 STEM teachers from around the country participating in the STEM Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., last week, co-sponsored by MIT and George Washington University.

The CEA members are part of the Network of Educators of Science and Technology (NEST) affiliated with MIT. Twenty NESTers were invited to this first-ever STEM Policy Institute. The goal of the program was to create a dialogue among educators, policy experts, and public officials about the current opportunities and challenges related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Here’s what 2011 Connecticut Teacher of the Year Kristen Record had to say about the experience.

We had discussions with leaders from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Chemical Society, and Phi Delta Kappa. We also went to a meeting held by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), in which the future of post-secondary mathematics education was discussed. GW’s Center on Education Policy held an advocacy training session for us in advance of meetings we had scheduled with members of congress.

Mid-week, Ernie and I attended the inaugural “Connecticut Constituent Coffee,” hosted by Senators Blumenthal and Murphy, with two other Connecticut science teachers.  We then later met with both of their education staffers – for about 45 minutes each – to discuss the intersection of ESEA reauthorization and STEM education.  Later in the week I had meetings with Representatives Himes and DeLauro and their staffers to discuss the same. I also had the unique experience of being able to be able to sit with Congresswoman DeLauro’s education staffer and watch some of the debate about HR5 from her office, and then later watched some of the debate about amendments to HR5 from the House Gallery.

While at the PCAST meeting, I picked up a 2010 report written by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology to the President called, “Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math for America’s Future.” On page 73, the report says, “Unless we give our best teachers access to decision-makers and a voice in the many policy decisions that affect their lives, we will continue to make poor use of the talented teachers in our schools, and large number of them will leave the profession for jobs that are more responsive to their needs.” 

That sentiment perfectly echoes my belief that classroom teachers need to be viewed as the experts in education when policies are considered and laws are passed; teachers need a seat at that decision-making table from the beginning.

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Rep. Rosa DeLauro with Stratford physics teacher Kristen Record

Wallingford Teachers Bring Families Together Through STEM

A new Wallingford initiative is “all about bringing families together through STEM,” according to Greg Colonese, one of the teacher organizers. The Wallingford STEM Enrichment Academy will offer evening and weekend activities for students and their families to build interest in STEM and increase family involvement in children’s education.

The new program is the vision of Wallingford Education Association (WEA) Vice President Chris Stone, who has been running a Young Astronauts Club in the district for the past 15 years. He applied through the WEA for a CEA grant that will help allow him to take his existing program to another level.

Stone joined several community leaders in announcing the new initiative to a room full of Wallingford families last night.

STEM WEA Chris Stone Sheila Cohen

CEA President Sheila Cohen thanks Wallingford families for their commitment to a new STEM Academy. At her left is Wallingford Education Association Vice President and Academy organizer Chris Stone.

“Funding from CEA really allows us to develop this program in ways we couldn’t have fathomed two years ago,” said Stone. “There’s been astronomical growth in interest from parents in the family science nights.”

The new STEM Academy will allow at least 100 Wallingford students to be involved with STEM enrichment activities over the next two years. Students will take part in design challenges and deepen problem solving and leadership skills through team-building challenges at a Wallingford low ropes course.

The WEA is collaborating with the Wallingford Youth and Social Services Department and the Spanish Community of Wallingford (SCOW) to implement the initiative. A long list of teachers and community members has already signed on, and many local organizations will also take part.

Stone talks to a Wallingford family following the announcement about a new STEM Academy for the district.

Wallingford Superintendent Salvatore F. Menzo credited Stone with making the new program possible for Wallingford families. “This program would not have been possible without Chris. He is amazingly dedicated to this initiative,” he said.

“We really appreciate CEA’s support,” Menzo continued. “It means a lot, and shows how dedicated teachers are to children in this district.”

CEA President Sheila Cohen thanked families for their commitment to the program. “As teachers, we can’t do it alone,” she said.

Cohen added that the CEA grant to the Wallingford STEM Academy “is part of CEA’s concerted effort to be right in the  middle of education reform that is going on in Connecticut.”

State Senator Len Fasano said that the Wallingford Academy is a great example of a program that works due to parental involvement. “We need more community commitment like what you have here in Wallingford,” he said. “Teachers have so much to do in the classroom, we’ve go to do our part to help them.”

Colonese, a Hamden High School teacher and Wallingford resident who is helping lead the program, said that the family engagement is a really unique aspect of the program.

WEA President Louis Faiella agreed, saying, “Look around the room. You can really see the family connections this program inspires.”

Faiella said that SCOW has been instrumental in helping some Spanish-speaking families feel comfortable joining the program. “SCOW is a bridge for families,” said Faiella. “And once families are involved with the STEM Academy, they feel more connected with the entire education system.”

Stone said, “The collaboration with SCOW has us really bursting at the seams. We’re thrilled.”

Alyssa Ferrone, a school counseling student at Southern Connecticut State University, participated in the Young Astronauts Club when she was a Wallingford student. Now she’s returned as a facilitator.

Ferrone says the hands-on STEM activities really get the kids to think and engage with the subject matter in a way that workbooks can’t. At a recent Wallingford Family Science Night that drew over 100 people, Ferrone said, “Kids were so excited and surprised by the activities.”

Parent Benita Lopez said the Young Astronaut program Stone has led has been great for her children, Frida and Brian Hernandez, who have both taken part. “They’ve enjoyed it so much that they asked to come tonight to sign up for the new STEM Academy,” said Lopez.