Inspiring educators

Douglas County teachers take part in Summer STEAM Institute

With the success of her school’s first Family STEAM Night last year, Tri City Elementary teacher Tammy Bryant was inspired to share her experience with other educators in Douglas County.

Bryant, who teaches first grade, had attended the 2017 Summer STEAM Institute organized by the Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub and later that year helped bring a variety of science, technology, engineering and math activities to campus for a night of family fun and learning.

Local teacher Tim Weber (left) prepares to launch a rocket created during the Project Based Learning with Rocketry workshop.

For this year’s STEAM Institute, Bryant offered to facilitate the Family STEAM Night workshop, explaining to colleagues how they too could engage their students, parents and community members in new ways.

“The opportunity for parents and kids to work together on those activities was so interesting to watch as a teacher,” she said. “It was enjoyable for every member of the family; everyone really seemed to get a lot out of it.”

Family STEAM Night was just one of many workshops available to educators over the summer at Umpqua Community College. The sessions were held from Aug. 13-16 and were open to anyone interested in expanding STEAM education. Participants also had the chance to earn professional development credits.

“We were excited to once again offer these training programs meant to inspire teachers who can then go on to inspire students,” said Gwen Soderberg-Chase, DCPSS and Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub director. “We’re grateful to all of our partners for making the Summer STEAM Institute possible.”

Along with Family STEAM Night, workshops included: Let’s Explore Our Place! The Oregon Explorer Digital Library; Oregon Connections; Math in Real Life; Collaborative Lesson Plans with Lending Library Resources; Demystifying NGSS; Mastering the World of Vernier Technology; Telling Spatial Stories About Our Place Using GIS; GLOBE: Place-Based Learning with Students Around the World; Project Based Learning with Rocketry; Put the M in STEM; STEAM in Early Childhood; Bringing Engineering and Design to the Your Classroom; and Explore Integration of Geography in STEAM Education.

Tri City Elementary teacher Tammy Bryant explores the Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub Resource Lending Library.

Participants were also invited to explore the Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub’s Resource Lending Library at UCC, which allows teachers to borrow equipment, technology, kits, books and tools for free.

Fullerton IV Elementary School first-grade teacher Amanda Haga participated in the workshop geared toward explaining how to integrate resource lending library equipment into lesson plans. She’s excited for the opportunity to help her young students stretch their imaginations.

“At the younger ages, I feel like they’re more willing to try things, so fostering that creativity and willingness to try, I think, is more important at the younger ages, so that they keep that mentality as they get older,” Haga said.

Chris Lofton is teaching fifth grade at Fullerton for the first time this year and wanted to ensure he was prepared to guide his students to success in the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test in science. Exposing students to STEAM learning opportunities, he said, also prepares them for success beyond the classroom.

“We live in an uninformed world, and we want to create students who are more informed,” he said. “I think that part of that is discovery and creativity and curiosity. I think STEAM really helps to build that in students and really helps to foster that scientific mind.”

Douglas High science teacher Sayer Johnston learned how to build water rockets in a workshop taught by staff from Talent Maker City, a nonprofit in Southern Oregon that seeks to establish Talent as a hub of cultural and economic development.

Lessons from the rocket workshop incorporate trigonometry and physics but can be integrated into lesson plans for several age groups. Participants used soda bottles and other materials to create the rockets, and even employed a 3D printer to create nose cones to enhance aerodynamics. Participants then launched the rockets on the lawns of the UCC campus.

“It’s something that’s really great for students,” Johnston said. “It’s got excitement, it’s got critical thinking, and it’s also got physics and math, so you can really go a lot of different directions with this project.”

Soderberg-Chase said the summer workshops will be followed up with ongoing sessions that teachers can attend through STEAM Professional Learning Communities.

“Teachers will continue to share ideas and lesson plans with one another,” she said. “It is our vision that all classrooms and learning environments will be filled with quality STEAM activities that are filled with hands-on, minds-on learning.”

Next year’s STEAM Institute will be held Aug. 12-15 at Umpqua Community College.


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