"Next" Magazine Vol. 3 Fall 2016 - Page 21

S T EM I MPACT STEM CAMP Q&A (continued from page 19) A: Engagement and Outreach with the community has always been a big part of what I do as a faculty member and my philosophy and approach to teaching and learning. Doing activities such as STEM Camp and Family Nights keeps me connected to the K-12 community. I love teaching and miss it and so this is a way that I can stay connected to the classroom, inspire and motivate students, and work with their families and teachers to make meaningful connections to STEM. I also think I’m a better professor because of the engagement work I do. I stay connected to the schools and the community. I have a real pulse on what the real issues are, what’s going on in classrooms, what students are grappling with these days, and what teachers are faced with. I think it’s easy as a professor to get lost in our higher ed lives; but what really matters is how we can relate what’s happening in K-12 to the students/preservice teachers we’re preparing.  Helping to connect our professors, especially the STEM content professors, to the K-12 community is also really important. Many of the STEM content professors have a strong desire to do more engagement work, but don’t really know how to approach it or want to do it on a smaller scale. Doing informal learning activities such as STEM Camp or Family Math or STEM nights enables them to try out new ideas on a smaller scale, get feedback and tweak it for the next implementation. Many of their graduate students are also involved. Most of these graduate students have never worked in a K-12 setting beyond their own personal experiences with schooling. Showing them the importance of connecting to the K-12 community (we hope) will have a strong and lasting impact on their future as a STEM professor. Q: On the other side of the coin, in what ways does having research/university-level experts work in partnership with K-12 students/educators benefit students? A: I think the K-12 students and teachers benefit from the fresh and new ideas that professors and our preservice teachers and graduate students bring to our engagement projects. We share our ideas and research and they get to pilot and try new ideas with lots of support. The K-12 community also gets to experience first-hand STEM content from professors who are top-notch experts in their fields. Sometimes we come to them and sometimes they come to us. There are not a lot of students and teachers across the US that can say they were in a university biology lab conducting experiments on cockroaches or fruit flies. Or touring the latest engineering labs. Or helping to conduct experiments at the Center for Applied Energy Research. Just giving them positive, authentic experiences with STEM content is a huge benefit.  Q: In general, do you see perceptions of mathematics changing? Are fewer students taking the attitude of “I’m not good at math, it’s too hard, etc…” If so, why? A: I​ n general at a local level, I do think we are seeing a shift in perceptions regarding mathematics, in a positive direction. We are doing a lot of things right in Kentucky. We’re focusing alot on the mathematical (and science and engineering) practices...the work of the mathematics (and STEM) in the classroom. That’s what is going to truly translate into real life. We also have worked hard to put informal learning experiences into place that help in reducing mathematics anxiety. The See Blue Mathematics Clinic specifically targets struggling mathematics learners. The See Blue STEM Camp specifically targets underrepresented students and students who are disinterested in STEM. The Department of STEM Education has several other projects that target giving students and their teachers positive, authentic experiences in STEM. The more of this we can do, the more impact we’re going to have at the classroom and community levels.  | 21