STEM Network: Growing Leaders, Building Community
Part of my role as a district Innovation Coach is to provide support to STEM and STEAM schools, educators, and classrooms. The driving question of this task: How can we leverage the collective wisdom of STEM/STEAM schools to connect our work and continue to grow?
Starting last year, I created a STEM Network in my district to create a community of collaboration across schools. The network meetings are designed to support schools applying for STEM or STEAM Designation with the Tennessee Department of Education, support schools in maintaining their designation status, and support in preparing schools for redesignation. Participants represent elementary, middle, and high schools and included principals, academic coaches, teachers, and district leaders. Meetings are designed to promote continuous growth and build capacity in educators to take learning back to their schools. We learn together. We provide feedback to each other. We cheer for each other. As a result of these meetings, schools have shared resources, visited each other’s classrooms, and served as thought partners for each other. The STEM Network is continuing this year with three meetings each semester.
Ultimately, the goal is to improve the quality of STEM learning experiences for students. We give and receive feedback on project/problem-based learning units utilizing the PBL Works’s Gold Standard PBL: Seven Essential Project Design Elements. We serve as an audience for students to showcase their learning. We are learners together; we create together. The STEM Network meetings provide time and space for collaboration, growth, and connection. When educators stick around to talk with each other after the meeting has ended, I know the network is on its way to being a self-sustaining community. When collaboration happens beyond the network meetings, it is a sign that others have embraced the mindset of being a STEM community.