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Engaging Students Across Disciplines

Twenty-five Ohio teachers are improving their teaching techniques and curricula, thanks to a team of Ohio Northern University professors.

Dr. Deb Gallagher, assistant professor of education, Dr. Ken Reid, program director of engineering education and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Dr. David Rouch, chair of the Department of Technological Studies,led the teachers in a series of STeM 2 STEM workshops over the summer, funded by an Improving Teacher Quality Grant from the Ohio Board of Regents.

STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics used in K-12 education. STeM 2 STEM focuses on using educational technology to capitalize the “e” for engineering in STeM.

“What we’re trying to help them do is integrate the STEM subjects,” says Gallagher. “We want them to be able to see that there really is a connection between math, science, engineering and technology.”

The teachers, who are from schools in ONU’s nine surrounding counties, spent two weeks going over activities, discussing pedagogy, and working on classroom communication and problem-based  earning. As part of their training, they each chose one of three hands-on activities with the ONU professors: rockets, robotics or LEGO Mindstorm.

Gallagher led the rocket team. “We start out with an Alka-Seltzer rocket, then we build straw rockets, water bottle rockets and, finally, the Estes rocket,” she says.

Throughout the process, the teachers explored how to incorporate concepts such as the scientific method, techniques for building and designing, and incorporating mathematics in calculating the height of each rocket.

The STeM 2 STEM workshop training also brings the teachers up to Common Core State Standards.

Perhaps more importantly, the training will have a profound impact on students. As the ONU group found during a follow-up symposium after they trained teachers last year, the teachers reported success in the classroom.

“One of the teachers mentioned that, once she started doing the activities, her students were much more motivated to come to her math class and much more engaged,” says Gallagher.

Teachers who are interested in incorporating some of the same hands-on activities used in the workshops can visit tryengineering.org. All activities meet the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) Teacher In-Service Program (TISP) standards.