What happens when you send science teachers to the Museum of Science in Boston for professional development and support? They get ideas.
That is what happened with teachers from the Bourne Middle and High schools last year.
One of those ideas started a new event, now in its second year, that the school administration hopes will be an annual event. Last Friday, May 23, was Engineering Design Challenge Day for Bourne Public Schools.
“We want to engage every student, and teacher, in collaborative, project-based learning and help us all to better understand that science and engineering are fun and critical fields for us as human beings,” said Susan J. Quick, assistant superintendent of Bourne Public Schools.
Engineering Design Challenge Day was embraced by every school, and teachers presented their students with hands-on challenges.
Bourne Middle School asked students with a team of peers to “Create a Claw” that could pick up lots of packing peanuts or one heavy object. The only materials they could use were drinking straws, yarn, index cards and masking tape. The only tools they could use were scissors and a ruler.
Teacher Sarah A. Lavoie polled her science students on the way out of class for their thoughts on the experiment. Her favorite comments were “If it looks easy, it probably isn’t” and “I have fun working in a team, win or lose” and “Work hard, and if something fails keep trying,” the 8th graders said.
Ms. Lavoie is one of the science teachers who attended the professional development day at the science museum’s Gateway Program. Her Bourne Middle School colleagues Kerri Evans and Amy M. Fish and high school colleague Marcia B. Flavell were inspired to bring STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) project-based ideas to all Bourne students after attending the program. “The credit goes to our teachers. This is a teacher-driven, teacher-led endeavor at every level,” Ms. Quick said.
The high school’s projects were to create a catapult that could throw an object and hit a target or to create a bungee jump for an egg. The students had limited materials to use but had no limit on the number of ideas.
All schools focused their projects on using the basic steps in the engineering design process: identifying the problem or need, researching information, brainstorming possible ideas, and choosing the best possible solution.
“Engineering Design Day isn’t the only inspiration to have come out of the professional development experience. More plans are underway to incorporate [these type of] projects and integrate them into every classroom.
Suggestions have been made to have every half-day of school be a STEM project day and as soon as class days end this year, work will begin to create a design studio at the high school. The work to school internship program was also influenced by the experience and other teachers are inspired to participate in the program and seek new master’s degrees in STEM education,” Ms. Quick said.
Allison Scheff, the executive director for STEM and the Governor’s Council from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, spent the morning witnessing the event and speaking with administrators and teachers.
Ms. Scheff makes funding decisions on professional development programs like the one at the Museum of Science and wanted to see the impact the training had on the school system as a whole.
Superintendent Steven M. Lamarche was pleased with the day and with Ms. Scheff’s visit. “I thought it was a day of excitement for students and staff. Our staff took the time to dedicate the day to inquisitive, constructive, hands-on learning for all. All students were engaged and there was a sense of discovery that permeated every classroom,” Mr. Lamarche said.