STEM Day draws educators to learn about new standards


EDISON — More than 100 educators from six states gathered at the first STEM Day in Edison to learn more about the iSTEM (integrative science, technology, engineering and mathematics) movement that is sweeping across New Jersey as districts scramble to meet the requirements of the new Common Core standards and the expectations of providing 21st-century learning for every student.

The recent event at Woodbrook Elementary School was hosted by the Elementary Department of the Edison Township School District in partnership with the Center for Excellence in STEM Education (CESE) at The College of New Jersey.

The partnership has existed for two years, with both groups working to pilot the engineering-design process with hands-on, high-interest educational experiences for students in grades three through five, according to school officials.

The event was organized as a response to the strong demand from many districts seeking to clarify their current understandings of iSTEM, and learn about the successes and future possibilities for iSTEM implementation across all grade levels. Districts are also awaiting the state’s decision on adopting the Next Generation Science Standards, which will propel science curricula into a trans-disciplinary and more process-oriented focus, officials said.

Educators offered 13 breakout sessions, sharing hands-on experiences for attendees to gain a deeper understanding of the iSTEM pedagogy and its outcomes. Participants had opportunities for understanding the engineering-design process through experiences with Legos, 3-D printers, laser cutters, vinyl cutters, BMX bikes, a digital book and everyday materials.

Fifth-grade students from Edison’s Martin Luther King, James Madison Intermediate and Woodbrook schools presented their projects. Some were environmental engineers presenting their findings and analysis of current global energy issues. Others testified to their enhanced growth in creativity and critical thinking through the engineering design process.

“Not only did we co-host the first transdisciplinary, or iSTEM, day in New Jersey specifically for the professional development of elementary teachers and administrators, but we also had a full line-up of presenters who are practicing teachers themselves, each presenting on a specific emerging topic,” said Chris Anderson of CESE, who gave the keynote speech at the event.

The day concluded with an invitation to visit the Thomas Edison Center at Menlo Park, arranged through Kathleen Carlucci, director of interpretation at the site.