STEMteachersNYC's Elementary STEM Initiative
Earlier in my elementary science teaching career, I would become frustrated when searching for professional development opportunities, finding that most workshops in science or STEM education were geared towards middle school and high school educators. Then, in the summer of 2017, I attended a two-week professional development opportunity called “KT3: Kid Talk, Teacher Talk” for elementary science educators. This workshop was run by STEMteachersNYC, a non-profit organization that provides high-quality and unique professional development courses in STEM teaching to educators in New York City and the surrounding metropolitan area. I was so impressed with this P.D. experience that I immediately decided to become more involved with STEMteachersNYC, approaching the organization and offering to form a committee specifically for elementary STEM educators. Several months later, we successfully launched STEMteachersNYC’s “Elementary STEM Initiative” and committee.
Teachers play an essential role in cultivating students’ understanding of and affinity for STEM subjects. Professional development in STEM subjects is particularly beneficial for elementary school teachers, who are uniquely well-positioned to provide a strong STEM foundation for their students. As a leader of the Elementary STEM Initiative, I am proud of the work that we have done to support elementary educators in the classroom. STEMteachersNYC’s distinctive approach allows all elementary educators to view themselves as effective teachers of STEM, regardless of their background knowledge. Some of the workshops for K-5 teachers that I have led or co-led include, “Push and Pull: Modeling STEM Strategies for the Early Elementary Classroom,” “Seeing Science Everywhere: Best Practices in Elementary STEM,” “STEM for Non-STEM Teachers: How to Fit the NGSS 3Ds Into Your Curriculum,” and “Computational Thinking in Elementary Classrooms.” These workshops have empowered elementary teachers to become STEM leaders in their schools and districts, with many of the participants becoming workshop leaders themselves.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we shifted from holding in-person workshops to offering virtual workshops via Zoom. This allowed us to begin providing professional development to educators far beyond New York City, hosting teachers from across the country and even internationally. In addition to leading workshops, I co-moderated a biweekly working group for K-12 educators teaching in remote or hybrid settings. Members of the group discussed their experiences teaching during a pandemic and shared best practices for teaching STEM during this challenging time. I also served on the Planning Committee for our first ever virtual national conference, “STEMteachersEXPO 2020,” which included several offerings for elementary educators.
By creating and nurturing STEMteachersNYC’s Elementary STEM Initiative, I have allowed elementary educators to find valuable, high-quality, and relevant virtual and in-person workshops that advance their knowledge and pedagogy. I am proud of having fostered a dynamic community of STEM teachers who actively support one another on a regular basis. I am thrilled to continue doing this important work, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds.