STEM: The New Frontier at AVIDPosted by AVID Center on 12/8/2019
By Ty Stevenson, Product Manager, Interaction Design Team, AVID Center
For a lot of folks—myself included—the meaning of the word/acronym “STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) can be a little confusing; as in, “OK, I know what those words are, but what do they represent when all ‘lumped’ together that way? And what does it have to do with me as an educator?” As a language arts/social studies teacher in the mid-2000s, this acronym didn’t really mean a lot to me. In those days the STEM “movement” hadn’t really gotten going yet, and at least three words within the acronym (science, engineering, and math) were subjects that I purposefully avoided throughout my educational journey (technology being the outlier, as I loved video gaming, gadgetry, and the like). In short, I was essentially “STEM-resistant.”
Fast forward to 2015. In a purposeful career change, I left public education and went to work for a private-sector education company that was emphasizing access to their robotics, coding, and otherwise STEM-focused solutions for all students. It was through this experience that I began to understand what this acronym seemed to mean in a real-world context. I quickly realized that “science” didn’t mean I needed to work with chemicals in a test tube or know dozens of Latin names for the parts of a flower; I came to understand that “technology” meant more than just developing the latest version of the iPhone or Xbox video game; I discovered that engineering was more than prototyping a more aerodynamic Corvette for General Motors or a more fuel-efficient F-150 for Ford (can you tell I’m from Michigan!?!); and I saw that math was more than working with complex equations and the three letters x, y, and z on some sort +-shaped axis. Rather, based on my own personal observations of students and educators working with our company’s solutions, STEM actually seemed to be more holistically about things like experimentation; learning through failure; grit, sticktoitiveness, mental toughness, and resiliency; working with a team to solve a problem (e.g., collaboration); adapting to the “local” environment and the materials available on-hand; and critically thinking to develop a contextually relevant solution. In short, STEM in the context I was observing it seemed to be about a purposeful approach to learning how to incorporate the aforementioned characteristics in education. These observations collectively served as a “lightbulb” moment for me, making STEM tangible, contextually relevant, and meaningful in a way that was not apparent to me before. Perhaps most importantly, my own perception changed—STEM was no longer some unknown, foreign, irrelevant concept on the frontier of my understanding; it was real to me.
Here at AVID, STEM is a fairly new frontier, and we are currently on our journey to define what it means for the AVID Family; how we can offer STEM experiences in a way that provides the most value for our educators, students, and networks; and how we can leverage STEM opportunities to purposefully engage even more students with AVID. So far, our journey is off to a great start! Here are some of the exciting initiatives that we’ve developed and are working on:
- AVID Elementary: STEM strand (launched at Summer Institute 2019): The AVID Elementary: STEM strand offers our partners professional learning that can be taken back to the classroom to provide students in grades 3–6 with rigorous, multidisciplinary, hands-on STEM experiences. Strand participants will work together to better understand STEM as both an integrated subject area and a pedagogy, to practice hands-on applications of STEM through a variety of design-based activities, and to understand how to identify real-world problems that can be woven into a variety of curriculum and teaching contexts. Educators will leave equipped to better identify, apply, and teach STEM content/materials through authentic, integrated approaches within their educational settings.
- STEM Academies: Launched as a pilot in summer 2019, this summer-camp–style program engaged more than 200 students with a carefully crafted STEM/robotics curriculum. AVID will look to further test this educational, fun program in 2020.
- Check out the Future of STEM in Middle School: Get a sneak peek at our new STEM Middle School strand for the 2020 Summer Institutes! We are building on the successful AVID Elementary: STEM events from last year and are excited to share the next phase with you. Come explore engineering design and computational thinking and learn how to weave WICOR and STEM into your AVID system. Bring your laptop and grow along with us!
- Code.org – Washington State regional partnership: As of September 2019, AVID has taken on the role of regional partner for Code.org, a popular nonprofit organization specializing in computer science curriculum and professional development with an emphasis on making computer science available for all. Though this relationship has just begun. AVID is working with Code.org to develop a system by which more educators—and ultimately children—can be engaged in computer science.
- Our final week of the #AVIDPolyChallenge starts this Monday, December 9—right in time for #CSEdWeek! Looking for a great math activity to do the Hour of Code with your students next week? Polyup has just released its first Poly machines in 3D and we're DOUBLING the prizes up for grabs during this special final week of the #AVIDPolyChallenge.
We’d love to share more about the new “frontier” with AVID STEM. To learn more, please consider engaging with us at National Conference! Attend one of our STEM-oriented sessions at National Conference.
You can also contact us directly at [email protected]. Thanks for checking out our blog; we are excited about the future of STEM at AVID as we continue our journey!
Ty Stevenson is a Michigan native and currently works from a home office in the Wolverine State as a member of Technology Services’ Interaction Design Team. He has spent the majority of his career in education, working as a teacher/basketball coach, university advisor/recruiter/administrator, and education industry consultant. Ty came to AVID in 2018 after working as a regional account consultant for LEGO Education in the Pacific Northwest. Ty loves working for AVID because of the fantastic people and culture, the commitment to equity while pursuing excellence, and the organization’s desire to constantly improve.