This academic year, Upper School biology teacher Ethan Ake returns to his classroom with a deeper understanding of how to integrate real world science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts into classroom instruction. This understanding comes as a result of his participation this summer in a highly exclusive professional development opportunity sponsored by the Siemens Foundation and administered by Discovery Education and Oak Ridge Associated Universities.
Ake was one of only 50 educators selected after a rigorous application process to take part in the Siemens STEM Institute. The immersion program is designed to promote hands-on, real-world integration of STEM in the classroom and help educators get their students excited about STEM education and careers. The goal of this one-of-a-kind, all-expense-paid fellowship is to create a group of STEM ambassadors who can take what they learn back into their own classrooms and become key influencers in their schools and communities.
The Siemens STEM Institute is part of the Siemens STEM Academy, a national initiative designed to empower educators with the tools, resources and real-world experiences necessary to inspire their students to explore and pursue STEM related fields.
Ake and his colleagues spent August 3-8 just outside of Washington, D.C., at the world headquarters of Discovery Communications – the parent company of Discovery Education, the Discovery Channel, Science Channel and Animal Planet – working with leading scientists, thought leaders, educators and innovators whose work across STEM disciplines inspires and informs science today and the careers of tomorrow. Ake met other education trailblazers from across the country and gained a better understanding of the importance of STEM achievement in K-12 and workforce readiness.
Guest speakers included education pioneer Dr. Lodge McCammon, as well as astrophysicist and star of Science Channel’s Outrageous Acts of Science Dr. Hakeem M. Oluseyi.
During a series of engaging sessions throughout the week, Ake explored a variety of topics, including flipped teaching and learning methods, the importance of learning communities for educators and students, digital storytelling, project-based learning, and national data about STEM education, among others.
"The Siemens STEM Institute has been instrumental in helping me understand not only the various dimensions of STEM education, but also how students of various levels and needs can access STEM in the classroom,” said Ake. “I hope to use my experiences at the Institute to develop an advocacy and leadership role in my school."
As part of the fellowship, participants also visited leading institutions of STEM innovation, including the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the National Building Museum and the White House. At the White House, fellows met with Marisa Bold, Chief of Staff for Innovation and Development at the U.S. Department of Education, to discuss STEM strategic planning and how to incorporate STEM learning through interactive activities with their students. These hands-on experiences introduced the fellows to real-world STEM applications and provided opportunities for networking and collaboration with peers from across the nation.
The Siemens STEM Institute specifically sought applicants who are committed to becoming STEM Ambassadors and a catalyst for changes in the way STEM subjects are taught in American classrooms.