NSTA Engineering Workshop

I had the privilege of presenting a workshop at the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) STEM Forum in Denver last week. Last winter I was incorporating engineering design challenges into my science curriculum at the same time that I saw the NSTA call for proposals. I thought about what I had been doing with my students and chose a challenge that I could implement and demonstrate at a conference. I called on two of my colleagues, our Technology Integration Specialist and an Upper School English teacher, and they graciously reviewed my proposal draft to provide helpful feedback.

I was excited this spring when I finally learned that I had been accepted, and true to form, pulled my slides together in the week before the conference. As always, the ideas had been percolating for the last month, and I had proactively asked our parent and faculty community to save and bring in any cardboard tubes in the last weeks of school, so my procrastination was not quite as bad as it sounds. Every time that I went into my classroom this summer, I continued to discover even more tubes! I’m grateful to work within such a kind and supportive community. It’ll be great to have our cardboard tube collection be robust for future projects.

I had so much fun presenting. It was interesting to reflect that the last time I did a full presentation at a national conference was over 20 years ago, during my first incarnation as a teacher. The technology has changed (online slides vs overhead projector, for one thing), but it’s still all about sharing knowledge and making connections. I appreciated that the adults fully embraced the hands on challenge to build marble runs, and I loved that their products reflected the inherent creativity in the challenge, the necessity of collaboration and communication to be successful, and the critical thinking required to problem solve.

There’s a chance that I might be able to offer this workshop for preservice teachers. I’ve already begun thinking about how to adapt it for a different group, teachers with less experience and training. They’ll need more scaffolding and more opportunities to hear their peers’ ideas.

When the session was over, I felt energized. It was a successful workshop, and a great conference. I appreciate that NSTA thoughtfully invited speakers to address a wide range of teacher populations (preschool through high school and even higher education), a variety of science topics, and an array of teaching questions and strategies. The length was a perfect time to attend sessions, gain information, and not feel overloaded. I’m grateful that I took a chance writing a proposal this winter and for the opportunities that resulted.

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