Educators of students in the fourth through eighth grade have a special opportunity this summer to participate in the first STEM Educator Academy on July 6 on the Texas A&M University campus in Bryan-College Station.
The academy will begin at 8 a.m. at the The Shirley and Joe Swinbank ’74 AgriLife Center at 556 John Kimbrough in College Station. Attendees will then transition to The Leach Teaching Gardens on the university campus. The program will conclude at about 5 p.m.
“This hands-on, high-energy professional development conference is our first STEM Educator Academy designed specifically for classroom teachers and informal educators for these grade levels,” said Lisa Whittlesey, AgriLife Extension program specialist and international coordinator for the Junior Master Gardener program, Bryan-College Station.
Whittlesey said an integral part of this training will be introducing and incorporating “citizen science” into workshop sessions and the overall program.
Academy STEM workshop tracks
Whittlesey said attendees can choose from workshop options and tracks in both morning and afternoon sessions to build their science, technology, engineering and math, STEM, learning background and obtain specific resources, curricula, classroom materials and supplies for classroom implementation.
“We suggest attendees dress comfortably for the weather and wear closed-toe shoes for the outdoor activities,” she said.
Randy Seagraves, AgriLife Extension program specialist and curriculum coordinator for the Junior Master Gardener Program, said the workshop will be a full AgriLife Extension effort.
“We have not only JMG and Texas 4-H involved, but we also have AgriLife Extension experts in water, wildlife, horticulture and entomology all taking part to plan and host these sessions,” Seagraves said.
Participants will have fun building in-depth knowledge in a variety of high-interest subject areas and learn how to incorporate these STEM-growing experiences with their students, he said.
This year’s high-interest STEM session options include:
- Junior Master Gardener Garden Science.
- The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Insects in the Garden.
- Making a Splash with Water Science.
- Exploring Robotics Science.
- Wildlife and Fisheries Science Safari.
The workshop also includes a networking lunch and academy wrap-up. The lunch speaker will be Randall Caldwell, principal, Lake Dallas Middle School, who will discuss how he has integrated 4-H enrichment programming and curricula into his campus to enhance student learning.
More information on topics, speakers and the conference is at https://jmgkids.us/agrilifestem/.
Space for the STEM academy is limited, and attendees are encouraged to sign up at their earliest convenience. The fee is $185 and registration is available at https://tx.ag.STEM-Academy. The fee includes:
- Texas A&M AgriLife certification documenting your completed workshop Texas Education Agency-approved eight continuing professional education hours and Texas Environmental Education Advisory Committee credit hours.
- Lunch, snacks, bottled water.
- All workshop supplies, curriculum and/or handouts, plus make-and-take samples.
- Workshop sessions in all areas of The Gardens at Texas A&M, including how those concepts can be incorporated at a school.
- Chances at door prizes.
The citizen-science connection
Citizen science refers to the participation of nonprofessionals in scientific research. This participation in citizen science research has also enhanced student learning and engagement with science-based inquiry.
“Each of the STEM sessions will include a citizen science demonstration related to that topic area,” Whittlesey said. “Our team will show how to integrate citizen science into existing lessons. We will also provide resource guides for instructors to online, open-access citizen science tools that will enhance existing lessons with opportunities to contribute to ongoing research.”
Whittlesey said one of the main workshop speakers will be Kelly Albus, Ph.D., an environmental scientist whose almost two decades of work in research, education and outreach through citizen science have helped researchers and communities improve their knowledge of watershed stewardship in Texas.
“Dr. Albus will show how citizen science allows anyone to become a participant rather than an observer in scientific research, which leads to benefits for both science and society,” she said.