The STEM Education Center facilitated several weeks of professional development with more than 100 PreK-5 educators from across the state through a grant from the Massachusetts STEM Advisory Council for MA STEM Week. In addition, the Center established the I am STEM Lesson Library which includes 12 STEM lessons, developed by teachers for teachers, to guide their students to solve problems in story books.
Just like WPI students, the PreK-5 children followed the engineering design process (designed by WPI seniors Beck Arruda and Amelia Ring) to brainstorm ideas, make a plan, build their design, test and improve their solutions, and then share their experience with a special guest. Lieutenant Governor Polito even made an appearance to one of the classrooms! The students had unique and creative designs that not only fit their personalities, but also solved the problem! They were proud of their ability to keep trying even when things didn’t work the first, second, or even third time. The excitement on their faces was priceless, and the teachers report that they are ready to solve more problems!
In a follow-up survey, teachers reported implementing more than 45 lessons with close to 500 students. These lessons were successfully implemented in all three teaching formats: in person, hybrid, and remote. Teachers reported that their students learned to cooperate, work with peers, deal with frustration, redesign when the first plan did not work, and communicate while apart. Students also learned that it takes patience and tenacity to try and bring an idea to life and gained an appreciation for the work engineers do in making the world a better place.
While this was a perfect activity for STEM Week, we are thrilled to hear that the teachers plan to continue to build problem solving into their curriculum year-round. The I am STEM Lesson Library remains available for any educator to use and will continue to grow.