Teachers want to strengthen their practice because we want to prepare our students to succeed. We want to engage them, and we want to bring STEM learning to life.
That is why I was eager to participate this summer in RESET, the Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) devoted entirely to educator development. Through the program, I completed 64 hours of online learning and collaboration with fellow STEM educators. These sessions focused on the Legacy Cycle of Learning, which begins with a real-world engineering problem and is designed to help students organize and manage learning activities in the lab in a meaningful way. The engineering design process enables students to apply skills and knowledge from all aspects of their education from social studies, to science, to math and language arts.
I also worked on-site at the United States Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory (USAARL) in Ft. Rucker, Ala. with Adrienne Madison, Ph.D., and her colleagues as they established plans and protocols for their upcoming head supported mass research study. The study focuses on testing helmets for medical safety. Witnessing the collaboration in this working laboratory firsthand has greatly helped me teach and nurture collaboration in my classroom.
Following my on-site RESET experience, I returned home to Erie and led a group of three teachers in the development of a Legacy Cycle lesson that focuses on concussions and the science of football helmets. This lesson requires students to design, test and build an improved football helmet to prevent traumatic brain injury—a lesson following the Legacy Cycle of learning to engage students in creating a solution to a real world problem. I am now rallying my community to raise funds for materials supporting this lesson. I plan to lead this cross curricular STEM unit on concussions in my STEM lab, where students complete hands-on experiments to solve real-world challenges. I am confident it will go a long way in helping my students strengthen their application of biology and physics knowledge and skills to think critically, while using creativity, communication and collaboration skills.
All of these experiences helped broaden my perspective and ability to teach the engineering design process, a critical learning process for students that mirrors how real-life engineers solve problems. (The process typically follows these steps: ask, plan, imagine, create, improve and communicate.) However, perhaps the greatest outcome was walking away with ready-to-use classroom lessons that I developed with fellow educators. Being part of this online network of teachers from across the country has taught me invaluable lessons about the implementation of STEM across grade bands and STEM resources available at the middle and high school level.
How are you engaging your students through the engineering design process? Tell us on Twitter at @USAEOP.
By Lindsey Dahl