Video Showcase

Video Showcase

STEMTLnet Video ShowcaseThe STEM Teacher Leadership Video Showcase features 3-minute videos submitted by teacher leaders and those engaged in creating teacher leadership programs. View their inspiring stories and make sure to leave a comment! Share on social media and "like" your favorites!

STEM Learning is for ALL Students

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This video highlights the STEM educational work of Diana Aston, a teacher of self-contained special education students. Diana is severely hearing-impaired. She believes STEM learning is essential in the connections students must make to the real world they will face as adults. This segment of the student population needs STEM to help them prepare to master life skills to lead independent lives. Diana takes the "making do with what we have" approach to teaching life skills, including gardening, recycling materials for gifts, constructing custom tools for cleaning, and relatable lessons about the parts and functions of the human body for self-care. Students are placed in hands-on learning situations where they are challenged to problem-solve and move beyond their comfort zone as they work through each lesson. She hopes to broaden the mindset of all educators to view the world through the eyes of special needs students.

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Angela McDaniel
Kirstin Milks
Kaye Ebelt
Elegan Kramer
Jennifer Schwertfeger
Jennifer Robertson-Honecker
Wanda Bryant
Yevgeny Pevzner
Rebecca Cummings
Joni Falk


Full Name

Ms. Aston,

Thank you so much for making and posting this important video to this showcase. It's so important to remind everyone (and remind them again and again) that ALL students need to learn STEM if they are to function in our increasingly scientific and technological world. What you are doing with these special needs students is inspiring.

I was especially taken with your video because I am a retired scientist and college-level educator who is currently volunteering at a local elementary school, working with a STEAM teacher and her students and offering "Ask A Scientist" discussions during students' lunch periods. What I have found out is that the school begins to track students as early as 3rd grade, with the children who are placed in various "gifted" programs receiving extra levels of learning enrichment. I am concerned about the many students who will not have the same kinds of access to these enrichment programs. I have requested that teachers who send students to the lunch discussions also include children who are not in the enrichment programs.

I'd be grateful if you could comment on this set of issues. I greatly worry that the students who are not part of enrichment programs that help them achieve their fullest potential (and, of course, ideally this should be happening all the time in all classrooms), will find science and engineering to be boring, fact-laden, and what they consider to be irrelevant to their lives. 

Thank you again for posting this beautiful video.

Mon, 11/07/2022 - 3:18 PM Permalink
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In reply to by Jay Labov

Jay Labov,

Thank you for your inspiration! I have heard that STEM Learning is taking place in more regular classes, not just in the gifted programs. I had to apply for grants to get materials to teach STEM in my self-contained classroom. With the grant, I made STEM learning happen for my students to have learning opportunities and experiences. My determination to strive for my students' learning impact to increase that I search for grants to help with the learning experience.  I am connected with West Virginia STEAM TAC. They also teach great activities to promote critical thinking and inquiry-based learning. They visit schools to provide lessons/activities.

More teachers need to get the opportunity to learn about STEM Learning, especially SPED teachers. The words need to get out!

Thank you,


Mon, 11/07/2022 - 5:35 PM Permalink
Full Name

Thank you for watching my video! I hope that I inspire you to reach out to teach special needs students as well as all students about STEM Learning.  The projects proved that special needs students can also use critical thinking inquiry-based learning to increase academic performance and student engagement. Students need the tools and visuals with encouragement to get out of their comfort zone to explore their learning.

Special needs students learn slower in processing and critical thinking, but patience, guidance, and monitoring will lead to a great learning experience. 

Have you had any experiences or stories to share? Do you have any other ideas, topics, or suggestions on teaching STEM to special needs students STEM? Any questions or suggestions are welcome.

Thank you!! 

Mon, 11/07/2022 - 5:18 PM Permalink
Full Name

Hi there, Diana! Thank you for this wonderful insight into your teaching practice.

Your video brought tears to my eyes -- I teach a co-taught special education freshman science course, and I am so proud of the work educators like you are doing "behind the scenes" of many students, teachers, and families in school communities across the country.

But, of course, the work is the show itself: helping ALL our students learn, grow, and develop their science skills so that they can face the many rewarding challenges of their adulthoods.

I can see from the video that your work prioritizes students' learning from mistakes or actions that don't yield expected consequences, which is at the heart of science learning. I'd love to learn how you help students feel comfortable with the unexpected, especially students whose histories have included messaging that "we have to get it right the first time."

Again, thanks for sharing your message in this showcase. I'm excited to show my colleagues at school! :) Kirstin


Mon, 11/07/2022 - 7:47 PM Permalink
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In reply to by Kirstin Milks

Thank you for inspiration message!!

It helps to let the students know that I have a disability too. I share my challenges, struggles, and experiences in my education and real-world situations. I am constantly telling them that is okay to make mistakes but learn from your mistakes. I always emphasize to the students to do their best even correcting their mistakes with guiding assistance. I use a great deal of questioning to get the critical thinking going. I have good rapport with my students. They can see that I care about them in my actions and words.

Thank you for your support!


Wed, 11/09/2022 - 4:54 PM Permalink

I am so happy so see that all students are included in science experiences!  All activities can be modified and brought to have all students access experimentation.  

My mother was a special education teacher and she was always trying to find activities to have her students access materials in fun new ways that facilitated learning.  

Thank you so much for bringing STEM to your students.

Tue, 11/08/2022 - 12:14 PM Permalink
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Dear Diana,

Thank you for sharing your story - It is inspirational! I especially like how you make it relevant to the students by helping them master life skills to lead independent lives. It made me recognize how far you've accomplished with the "make do with what we have" approach, but also made me realize how much we must do to make STEM more accessible.

Tue, 11/08/2022 - 5:07 PM Permalink

Thank you for your inspiring message Elegan!

I realized as I did my projects that these are real-world activities that I can teach my students.  I also have a friend who is involved in STEAM TAC Learning which gave me a push in the right direction to use what I know to teach science/STEM in my classroom. My students can learn to apply STEM lessons that have meaning to them in their daily life after they graduate from high school. If you think about it, STEM is really real-world science.  :) Diana

Wed, 11/09/2022 - 5:07 PM Permalink
Full Name

I have noticed in my STEM classes students with special needs to much better than when I had a traditional format.  These students may not be able to read as fast or remember as much, but they are problems solvers and have unique way to solve problems.

I smile big when a student with special needs figures out a solution before.  Their unique thought process leads to unique solutions.  

They to feel special when they figure it out before any one else and it happens quite often.  

Thu, 11/10/2022 - 5:35 PM Permalink
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I totally agree! Special needs students' thinking process is unique, but they are learning. They do come up with some interesting solutions that I have not considered.  Your post is inspiring! Thank you :) Diana

Fri, 11/11/2022 - 11:28 AM Permalink
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Thank you for sharing this story! I do agree that every student should have an equal opportunity to learn and engage in STEM. Powerful!

Fri, 11/11/2022 - 6:08 PM Permalink
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You spoke of what STEM and STEAM lessons can do for a students, how the challenges they face in these projects will assist them in facing the challenges they confront in the real world. This is so true! If they have the exposure of completing hard things, how to process their emotions, practice the strategies, the STEM pedagogy provides great life skills. So often I see students in special ed classes not having the exposure to STEM lessons (mainly due to time) so bravo for making it happen. Very inspiring and I will share this video with my colleagues. STEM is for all students!

I see how you are using TeacherGeek kits! A great website. Looks like they made the Wiggle Art Bots. Always a favorite!

How often are you able to incorporate STEM lessons? Are they a separate rate activity or do you embed them in a unit plan?

Sat, 11/12/2022 - 6:39 AM Permalink


Thank you for your encouragement and support!!! 

Yes, we did Wiggle Bots with WV STEAM TAC.  My students loved it! I have been using my awarded grant to purchase materials for STEM Learning Lessons.  I also use recyclable materials to create other lessons to incorporate more STEM lessons. I usually embed my classes in a unit plan. The real-world learning experience is the best lesson.

Thank you!


Mon, 11/14/2022 - 4:53 PM Permalink
Full Name

Thank you for this very important reminder that STEM is for everyone.  Our motto my schools is STEAM for All and by All.  Students from all categories of our school work together to explore STEAM activities.  Your video is inspiration for all educators to include all in this important field of inquiry and exploration.

Thank you!


Flo Falatko

Using Literature to Promote Equity in STEAM

Sat, 11/12/2022 - 8:26 AM Permalink
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In reply to by Florence Falatko


Thank you for your support and encouragement! I do hope that I am inspiring others to include special education students in learning STEM. STEM is a valuable learning experience that makes real connections to make a meaningful hands-on inquiry. :) Diana

Mon, 11/14/2022 - 5:09 PM Permalink
Full Name

Thank you, Diana!  I have found the same results in my STEAM classrooms, which have been in an inclusionary setting.  The Special Needs students love to come to STEAM, and get to showcase all of their other talents, working with their hands to build solutions.  Keep up the great work- your video is so inspirational!

Sun, 11/13/2022 - 9:45 AM Permalink


Thank you for your support and encouragement! I am glad that we discovered the same result that special education students do need STEM Learning. I have seen that STEM learning is offered to gifted and honor programs, but it is for all students. Thank you! :) Diana

Mon, 11/14/2022 - 5:24 PM Permalink
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Thank you sharing your amazing story, first,  thank you your service to our exceptional scholars and I’m most impressed by you and how your talents have impacted and  encouraged  success. 

I agree hands on teaching and exploration has been a strategy used for years before the concept of STEM//STEAM. It has enhanced the concepts in a framework that can be applied to all. 

Diana you are truly an inspiration to your scholars and peers. I will be sharing this video with Director of  special education, can you share some of the PD you have attended, I’m sure they will be asking for more information to share with other staff. 

again, thank you


Sun, 11/13/2022 - 4:42 PM Permalink
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In reply to by Ruth Ray, M.Ed.

Ruth Ray,

Thank you for your support and encouragement! Honestly, I don't recall any particular PD inspiring me to teach STEM.  My dear colleague and friend, Jennifer Schwertfeger, who is a science teacher inspired me to change the way I teach science. She has discussed the variety of ways of leading hands-on inquiry-based learning. Jennifer is currently the manager for WV STEAM TAC. She is an inspiration to me in more ways than one.

As I pursued my NBCT, I strived to continue to improve my teaching by applying for grants to get materials for STEM Learning. After I was awarded NBCT in 2021, I continue to apply for grants, but I am working towards bridging STEM Learning with other core subjects. I have also presented using the five senses to activate prior knowledge in teaching new concepts at WV Science Conference 2022. 

Thank you :) Diana 

Mon, 11/14/2022 - 6:02 PM Permalink
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