This summer the Center for Technology and School Change (CTSC) once again worked with Yonkers Public Schools’ Summer School to develop teachers’ skills in the design and implementation of innovative STEM learning experiences for students.

The “Summer Steam Academy”, sponsored by Yonkers Public Schools, paired CTSC facilitators with Yonkers’ teachers in the summer school program and supported them through the classroom design and implementation of different authentic STEM projects for each grade level. The CTSC facilitators also provided professional development in bi-weekly planning meetings with the teachers. A common theme throughout the work at every grade level was the engineering design process.

“The Yonkers Summer program is an opportunity to work collaboratively with colleagues, in an environment where taking risks is appreciated and supported, all in pursuit of an authentic STEM learning experience. It is an engaging program for learning math concepts through a project that is relevant to the students’ lives,” according to Rocio Elena, a facilitator who worked with the second grade.

Kids are designing their cafeteria

“In this environment, students can be problem-solvers and designers,” according to another facilitator, Xiaoxue Du.

Students from the first and second grades redesigned the cafeteria using their measurements to create a blueprint for a new cafeteria. The students followed the engineering design process, including identifying the problem, imagining a solution, creating a blueprint, and improving their blueprint to structure their planning. The second grade also created a healthy menu to serve the cafeteria. Other grades did other projects such as building a habitat for endangered species and designing computer and board games based on fractions.    

A student is working on her project

The overall aim of the four-week summer program is to support teachers in the development of their skills in STEM education. In the first week, Center facilitators introduced STEM projects to the teachers, based on the needs of Yonkers students. Participants explored the concept of math identity, and used this discussion to think deeply about the value of hands-on, inquiry-based learning in the mathematics classroom, according to Melanie Battles and Caron Mineo, CTSC staff members who worked on the math projects.

As a result of the summer project, teachers learned more about designing authentic engaging projects for their students and they also learned to use various technologies throughout the implementation of the projects. The Open House at the end of July was well attended, and there was great excitement and enthusiasm as parents and administrators listened to students present their designs for the cafeteria, explain their board and computer games, and the various habitats they designed for endangered species. The ultimate focus of all of this work, the students, had the opportunity to explore the real-world problems within the context of a summer learning environment for the STEM.