Theme of the month

Theme of the Month

Join us each month as we focus on a topic of interest to STEM Teacher Leaders with a webinar panel, open discussion, resources and blog post. 

Full Name

Theme of the Month Discussion: America's Strategy for STEM Education – Why it is Relevant to STEM Teacher-Leaders

Join this facilitated discussion starting January 8th.


Full Name

Hi everyone,

I'm really looking forward to participating on the panel and hearing from other teachers tomorrow January 8th at 7 pm EST. I want to start a conversation on America's Strategic Plan for STEM Education bysharing a little of what I will talk about tomorrow on the panel.

As we all understand, as a society we can no longer afford to teach STEM content and skills to just the select students whom we believe will go on to pursue careers in those fields. To function in the political and social context of our society, individuals need an interdisciplinary understanding of STEM. From the dangers of vaping to climate change to the impact of collecting individuals' genetic information on health insurance, all require some kind of basic understanding of STEM in order for individuals to make important personal, social, and political choices. It would be unfair to require our teachers to cover all this content given their already crammed curriculum. I believe that leaning on community partners to foster an ecosystem of STEM learning can give students the critical learning they need to function in society and pursue STEM careers, as well as support and enhance what teachers already do in the classroom. 

I look forward to sharing more tomorrow, including resources, and listening to your thoughts and questions on the topic. 




Remy Dou, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Fellow, FIU Extreme Events Institute

Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow Alumnus

Dept. of Teaching & Learning / STEM Transformation Institute 

Florida International University


Tue, 01/07/2020 - 3:46 PM Permalink
Full Name

In reply to by Remy Dou

I love Remy’s statement “To function in the political and social context of our society, individuals need an interdisciplinary understanding of STEM.”  You give great examples.  One concern is with some state, district, or school graduation requirements that narrow the scope of science courses students are required to take.  In my state as well as others, computer and some CTE courses can count as science requirements in lieu of physics, chemistry, and earth science courses.  Does it seem to everyone else that we are preparing students for careers but not preparing them to be STEM literate? Will they understand about climate change, antibiotic resistance, how their cell phones work...? And be able to discuss legislation?  My other concern is with catering to their (students) interests too much?  If we don’t give them instruction and new experiences in these other areas, how will they know they are or aren’t interested?  We can’t just take Biology.  

Sat, 01/11/2020 - 8:24 AM Permalink
Full Name

In reply to by Julie Olson

Well said, Julie. Our conceptions of why we need to teach STEM literacy or skills need to evolve in the same way scientific discovery evolves, replacing old models with new ones. For example, while at one point I argued in favor of STEM preparation in terms of our country's global economic sustainability, I now see that as more of a byproduct than an actual goal. I see STEM preparation more and more as a social justice issue, giving all students the right to wonder and appreciate the world they live in, participate confidently in meaningful conversations around issues that relate to their everyday lives, and if they so choose, to pursue jobs in those fields. Regarding the latter, like you said, those jobs are varied and don't just exist in their simple silos; they don't always imply you need need a bachelor's degree in a particular field. I believe it will take voices like yours and those of other teacher leaders to contribute to changes in this culture. 

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 8:04 AM Permalink
Full Name

Hello STEM Leaders!

I am excited to join you for the panel discussion tonight along with the other distinguished speakers to discuss America's Strategy for STEM Education. The comprehensive document is robust is reflections and resources, and my focus will be on the computational literacy section. 

When considering computational literacy, and how technology and computational thinking is incorporated into our classrooms, I always like to ponder: How do our schools mirror society? 

As an 8th grade science teacher, I taught a unit on orienteering and how to read a compass. It was a fun unit that involved learning outside of the classroom, measuring azimuth and altitude of objects on the horizon, and placing students in teams to work together and problem solve. I felt positive about the learning experience and skill building that was occurring.

Fast forward to a couple of years into my career, I had an astute young 8th grader ask me: "Ms. Young, why are we learning this?". I quickly responded with links to opportunities for land surveying, astronomy, satellites, etc. I also let her know that orienteering with a compass would be a useful skill to get where she was going. She thoughtfully pulled out her phone (illegal at the school during the school day) and pulled up Google Maps. Understanding her question, I let her know that it would be important in case she didn't have her phone. She thoughtfully responded: "Ms. Young, do you really think I'd have a compass if I didn't have my phone?".

I loved the orienteering unit... but it clearly lacked relevance to my students and their reality. As educators, how do we incorporate computational literacy in our classrooms to engage our students with today's tools? I would love to hear examples or see resources of how teachers have updated lessons to reflect today's technology and computational thinking. Or you are welcome to provide suggestions to my orienteering lesson, I am always open to feedback.

Thank you, I am looking forward to tonight! 



Sarah Young

Director of Strategic Initiatives

Utah State Board of Education 

Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow Alumnus 

Wed, 01/08/2020 - 12:33 PM Permalink


You’ve got a very relevant thread started here!  I can’t speak with much expertise to science content standards as I’m a high school math and computer science teacher, however, I’ve experienced many of my classic lessons become “declassicfied” as they’ve aged.

For instance in geometry we’ve done many variations of transformation projects.  I can remember some of my favorite lessons framed around reflection angles in billiards and planning shots, but I ended up reframing them around subjects students see as relevant to their lives.  

To give an example, many of my students seem to identify with Disney movies and so we designed a big project around a TED talk from Tony Derose of Pixar called, “The Math Behind the Movies.”  We started by using a platform called Geogebra which was successful, and we’ve been able to transform it into a programming lesson now where students design the outline of their own character and program it using the block-based language Scratch.  Kids are super engaged and there aren’t any questions around relevance… for now!

Also, for the sake of consistency, is there some commonality between how we’re defining Computational Thinking?  In my experiences as a teacher leader trying to coach other teachers, we needed to come to clearer terms to better understand desired outcomes of what it means to think computationally.  We ended up choosing 4 pillars: Decomposition, Abstraction, Algorithmic Design, and Pattern Recognition (DAAP).  


Thanks again for your leadership here,


Fri, 01/10/2020 - 1:40 PM Permalink

Hi Mike!

Thanks for your post, I love the TED talk that you posted. What a great resource in partnership with the Geogebra programming platform. It's great when we can incorporate learning, technology, and computational thinking. 

When I use "Computational Thinking" - I am referring to the definition that is in the K-12 Computer Science Framework document: "computational thinking: The human ability to formulate problems so that their solutions can be represented as computational steps or algorithms to be executed by a computer. [Lee, 2016]". The Federal STEM Plan refers to "computational literacy" which expand the concept to include digital citizenship, wellness, computer science and digital platforms. 

The pillars you have identified line up really well with the concepts and sub-concepts in that framework as well. We have relied on that document to help inform our next steps to build a K-12 computer science access for our students in Utah. 

Thanks Mike, I appreciate your insights and expertise!



Mon, 01/13/2020 - 11:59 AM Permalink
Full Name

In reply to by Patty Lofgren

Thanks so much for sharing this paper. Very important. I'd love to learn even more about the author's thoughts and experience concerning talk and academic vocabulary.

Capitalizing off of student discourse is a promising disciplinary practice identified in NASEM's English Learners in STEM Subjects: Transforming Classrooms, Schools, and Lives. Supporting student talk is good for ALL students, and it is especially good for our ELs and other underrepresented groups.

I really appreciated this from the MEC paper:

Learning to really listen to students, assess their understanding in the moment, and make myriad decisions like whether or not to respond to a student’s idea and, if so, when? and how? or where to go next? are givens with Number Talks. Number Talks require constant decision-making on the part of teachers and this is not at all easy to do, especially when getting started. 

Allowing students to have a leadership role in discussion can uncomfortable for the teacher. It requires a mindset change and some explicit teaching approaches. But good gravy, it's worth it!

Side note: I also like briefs on student talk from STEM Teaching Tools.



Sun, 01/12/2020 - 3:07 PM Permalink
Full Name

In his blog, Jeff posed several interesting questions to get discussion started, and I think his first one might help unearth some additional thoughts from folks participating in this theme.  His question is:

  • Upon what guiding light or best practice or research basis or rallying document do you presently rely to set your STEM course?

The reason I think this is a topic worth bringing in here is "policy churn."  Over the past 30+ years that I've been in the "science ed business,"  schools have seen frameworks, strategies, models, etc. turning over at a great rate.  The result has been, well, complicated, and each wave of change or reform or strategy has left a deposit which influences the next strategy to arrive.  

    So I"d be interested in hearing answers to Jeff's question, and maybe how the present strategy either builds on, or reinforces, or otherwise relates to the strategy currently holding sway in your area of the Ed Universe.

Wed, 01/22/2020 - 9:38 AM Permalink
Log in or Join to post comments