Educators from across California met in Anaheim this week to examine how lessons that involve investigating crime scenes, building solar-powered vehicles, and even studying the science behind zombies can encourage more students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
The 2015 California STEM Symposium drew 3,100 teachers and school administrators Thursday and Friday to the Anaheim Convention Center.
Educators participated in more than 300 workshops, roundtable discussions and hands-on lessons created to help schools funnel more students into STEM coursework.
“The goal here is to inspire teachers, to have them learn new skills they can take back to their classrooms,” said event organizer Shelly Masur, CEO of Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation, a collaborate that works to increase professional development in STEM and supports districts in the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards.
Speakers included NASA astronaut and former NFL player Leland Melvin, Knatokie Ford, senior advisor for the White House Office of Science and Technology, and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.
“The symposium allows teachers to learn practical, not theoretical, lesson plans that connect students to real-world jobs,” Torlakson said.
Increasing the number of students in STEM pathways is vital to addressing California’s shortage of qualified workers, Torlakson said.
This is the third year of the symposium, which also aims to grow the number of minority students and girls in STEM.
More than a dozen workshops focused on how schools can reach out to more girls.
A workshop entitled “Girls Love Robotics” discussed how teachers can recruit women engineers and female college students in engineering programs to serve as mentors in schools.
“The goal here is to inspire teachers, to have them learn new skills they can take back to their classrooms,” said Shelly Masur, CEO of Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation.
One of the symposiums most popular workshops, “The STEM Behind Hollywood,” examined how STEM concepts can be integrated into popular genres, including the current zombie phenomenon. Jeff Lukens, a science teacher in South Dakota, shared a lesson he uses that allows students to investigate a hypothesis that elevating pH could prevent people from becoming undead.
Other workshops centered on forensics, computer programming, astronomy and the environment.
“Making STEM fun and interesting will only draw more students in,” said Sharon Rodriguez, a high school science teacher from San Diego.
“As educators, it’s now our job to make science cool.”