STEM_Academy
Shahram Dabiri (left), STEM technology manager with the Defense Ordnance Technology Office, gets students involved in learning while teacher-observers learn new methods of teaching their students about science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. (August 14, 2013) -- A program here that invites a select number of students to be immersed in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) added a new element this year.

This year's Picatinny STEM Summer Enrichment Program includes student motivators that assist in getting students interested in STEM and teacher-observers that learn effective techniques in teaching STEM subjects.

"We invited teachers to observe what we do here," said Jack Leffler. "Our goal is to give them ideas to work with and the methodology to teach it."

Leffler is a teacher at Randolph Middle School and has been one of the instructors in the program since its inception in 2012.

Teachers can sometimes follow a lesson plan so strictly that the classroom experience itself becomes too rigid and can leave students uninspired, Leffler said. A lack of experience in teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics to students is also a problem that puts students at risk of not being fully engaged in the classroom.

"A lot of schools are asking non-STEM teachers to take on those roles," Leffler said. "So what we're doing here is not just showing them what to teach but how to teach it."

Through observing the teaching methods being employed at the STEM Academy here, the observers can take the lessons learned and apply them to their instruction in their own classroom in their local schools.

Rosemary Rizzuto is one of those teachers who has been an observer. She has taught mathematics at Bernardsville Middle School for 12 years. But this coming fall, she was told that she would be teaching technology.

"It was a good opportunity because I don't have a technology background," Rizzuto said.

After spending time observing how experienced science teachers get their students excited about the subject material, Rizzuto said that some of her anxieties were put to rest.

"I am less apprehensive now. I see the importance of letting kids have the flexibility to learn from mistakes and to learn from trial and error," Rizzuto said. "I actually understand more of the design model and how important it is for students to design, test, and redesign."

"I got to see how they engage the students in problem solving," said Rizzuto. "It's definitely something that I want to bring back to my own classroom."

A total of six teachers from local area schools will be visiting as teacher-observers for one week each for professional development during the duration of the three-week program, said Ed Petersen, the program manager for the Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium's STEM Outreach Program.

"I think that it has been beneficial," Rizzuto said. "I do think that these subjects should be integrated and I see how it motivated the students to do more."

Page last updated Wed August 14th, 2013 at 00:00