Too much went on at the Washington STEM summit to even begin to summarize in one blog post. So here’s a storify link that includes the top 50 #waSTEMsummit tweets. If you want a broad overview of the event, then this is the link for you:
Otherwise, keep reading for my view ;0), and the experience of my day at the #waSTEM summit. Hopefully my own expanded experience will help to shine a light, and some insight, into the variety of tweeted perceptions from the day.
I’m writing this one week after the summit, and, if anything, the passing of time brings perspective. I can tell you that my day-of experience at the summit was a blur and a rush. I was asked to cover the event via Twitter and issued a press pass. It was exciting to say the least. A lot happened and there were some interesting culminating connections that I’ve been working towards for a while. Overall, the experience was a good one that energized me for the upcoming year’s work in STEM education.
STEM Forum Plenary Start
The morning was off to a relaxed start with breakfast and a chance to chat over coffee. Once the event was up and moving, Superintendent Susan Enfield of Highline Public Schools gave a brief introduction. Highline has been doing some exciting things in the area of STEM education. Both Mary Snapp of Microsoft and Patrick D’Amelio of WA STEM gave brief remarks to welcome and inspire the attendees around STEM work in Washington State.
There were a lot of brief introductions which was intriguing to me. Alison Jenkin of Huawei also gave a nice welcome with references to Huawei’s worldwide technology interest and focus. Most engaging of the early speakers was Apars Walia, a University of Washington student who benefited greatly from WA MESA programs. She spoke well regarding the importance of providing future students with opportunities to dream, achieve, and help others. Her message an especially relevant one in today’s political environment.
STEM Forum Plenary Focus
All of the introductions led up to Dr. Ainissa Ramirez’s keynote talk. I was unsure what to make of Dr. Ramirez at first, but she warmed up fast and provided one of the most poignant talks that I’ve heard in a while. She was engaging, funny, and provided a lot of good food for thought. Some of her key themes centered on Einstein’s references to imagination’s value over rote memorization, how diversity makes us smarter, and being stronger together. As Dr. Ramirez centered in on education, she talked about the importance of asking questions and that “failure needs to be our friend”. I loved the idea that scientists fail all of the time, but they just rebrand that failure as “gathering data”. The final thought was culminating in that we need to leverage STEM education in order to generate “creative problem solvers” for the “knowledge economy”.
Part two of the main focus was a question and answer session with Senator Christine Rolfes. Senator Rolfes spoke eloquently in regards to the funding challenges facing public education, and also referenced the tug of war between charter schools and public school funding and the role that STEM education plays in that. The $3-5 billion funding gap in Washington’s education was the estimate provided by the senator, and that number was brought up multiple times by others over the course of the day. The senator’s challenge to the STEM educators in the room was to stop looking at STEM education as a pilot program (my thinking: I’m looking at “you” magnet/pilot/charter schools) and to start looking at STEM education as a proven practice that belongs in every school.
There were a variety of breakout sessions, but I was specifically drawn to the “Girls in STEM” and “Science & Engineering” presentations. I could write an entire post on the information presented, but will try to summarize as best I can.
Starbucks, AT&T, Techbridge, Women’s Funding Alliance, and Camas School District all presented regarding their programs for encouraging girls in STEM. At my school, we’ve yet to acheive equal representation so I was interested in getting some new strategies. Of particular note, the Starbucks program was creative and focused though limited in scope; AT&T sponsors a variety of programs while discussing the striking fact that women are 48% of the workforce but only hold 23% of STEM jobs; Techbridge, with backing from the Women’s Funding Alliance, seemed to have a very methodical approach as they gather a lot of data regarding participation in their afterschool programs; and the Camas school district presentation highlighted strategies, successes, and challenges with holding a girls-only STEM day event. All the presenters had good information to share and a lot of lessons learned, though no one appeared to have any breakthrough “aha” ideas in regards to encouraging girls in STEM.
As for the Science & Engineering presentation, I admittedly missed some of this due to an impromptu meeting with my superintendent. What I did catch talked about some encouraging ideas regarding innovative ways to share science instructional strategies. These “studio” sessions allowed teachers to observe a best practice lesson in action and promised to be very effective professional development. The other part of the presentation focused on the Engineering Fellows Program. I am one of the teachers participating in this program, so it was interesting to hear a presentation to a room of outsiders regarding the engineering training and curriculum development that the 30 5th grade teacher members are taking on.
WA OSPI Superintendent and Teacher of the Year
Chris Reykdal & Camille Jones took turns with a mutual question and answering session that was both intriguing and informative. Superintendent-Elect Reykdal didn’t shy away from the tough questions and addressed the McCleary ruling early on in regards to the tricky task of fully funding education. He also signified a more cordial and cooperative tone to be taken with lawmakers. Camille provided us with insight into how she happened into a very successful teaching career. I really appreciated her thoughts regarding wanting to make a difference in the world, and discovering that the best place to start was in her home community. I had the opportunity to talk with Camille a few times during the day and found her to be incredibly personable and genuine. I for one am very excited that she is our 2017 Washington State Teacher of the Year!
Governor Inslee and Ricardo Lockette
Governor Inslee had some big announcements. He spoke grandly about his new budget and how he proposes to fully fund public education. Governor Inslee also broke the news about the upcoming adoption of K-12 Computer Science standards—apparently relishing the setting for doing so. Though, I think the governor’s earned the right, since he is definitely dedicated to STEM education as evidenced by his having attended every Washington STEM summit.
Ricardo Lockette had some interesting insights and line of thoughts into STEM education and its importance. After being announced as the “Washington State Citizen of the Day” by the governor, Lockette launched into a staunch defense of STEM Education: he’s only alive because of STEM! Ricardo had some other good thoughts including the importance of leveraging our passion to overcome the challenges pertained within our work. I approached Ricardo Lockette at the very end of the day while he was conversing with some friends who had clearly come to support him. My intention was only a quick “thank you” as I was interrupting, but he took the opportunity to ask my name and some questions about me. The man is surprisingly genuine and personable given his level of public recognition.
Again, there was way too much here in one day to even come close to addressing it all in one blog post. It was a big day with lots of speakers, big names, and great thoughts. I am not 100% clear on the top goals for the day beyond building momentum for STEM education in Washington, so I’d be interested in knowing more from the organizers’ perspective. I also heard from several participants that they’d like more time to connect and network throughout the day. These things aside though, the summit was invigorating, inspiring, and provided a lot of things to think about as we move STEM education forward in Washington State. It’d be worth growing the event and reaching out to a larger group of educators in order to build a bigger STEM network. Most important to me was the highlighted need to remember that diversity is part of our Next Generation Science Standards… it’s written into them. This is critical to our work as STEM educators, and one I just conversed with my principal about recently because the summit inspired me to do so. STEM education is for all students, and we must move this from an ideal to a fact of reality for everyday public education everywhere. This message alone, magnified from the Washington STEM summit, makes the day and experience worthwhile in my book.
Video on Building Confidence via STEM: http://www.readywa.org/martin-sortun-elementary
Washington STEM: http://www.washingtonstem.org/
Washington MESA: http://washingtonmesa.org/
Engineering Fellows (1 of 3): http://www.washingtonstem.org/News-Media/Press-Releases/engineering-fellows#.WFDOH3Q76hA
Engineering Fellows (3 o 3): http://wsta.net/resources/Documents/Engineering%20Fellows%20Overview%20(002).pdf
CORElaborate Homepage (just in case): http://corelaboratewa.org/
Next Generation Science Standards: http://www.nextgenscience.org/
Computer Science Standards (recently adopted by WA): https://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.csteachers.org/resource/resmgr/Docs/Standards/2016StandardsRevision/INTERIM_StandardsFINAL_07222.pdf