UNCW’s Watson College of Education Faculty Engineer New Learning Opportunities for STEM Teachers

Friday, January 16, 2015

Wilmington, NC – About 20 public school teachers recently crowded around several tables in a classroom at the UNCW Watson College of Education. Piles of foam, felt and other fabrics cluttered their workspaces as they quickly cut out suitable shapes for their group projects.

Although the room looked like center stage for an art course, the teachers actually were on campus to study new strategies for teaching science, technology, engineering and math. The teachers in this particular class developed makeshift sound wave dampeners out of the materials on hand.

Their project was one of 40 presentations held during the first K-12 STEM Education Conference hosted Jan. 9 by the Watson College Center for Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (CESTEM). About 150 teachers from public school districts across the region attended the conference (PDF), which was part of the continuing education opportunities that Watson provides annually. The college maintains professional development partnerships with 12 school districts and 147 schools across Southeastern North Carolina.

“It is our sincerest hope that each participating teacher takes effective strategies back to the classroom to share with his or her students,” said CESTEM Director Dennis Kubasko. “Our partner schools will benefit from the teachers’ increased motivation and the realization that these learning experiences can be duplicated at their unique locations.”

David Glenn, a sixth-grade science teacher at Burgaw Middle School in Pender County, appreciated the opportunity to attend the conference. He said: “I am thrilled that CESTEM hosted this event (at UNCW). It is always great to hear new ideas and to connect with other science teachers.”

Glenn '09 co-presented a session that showcased creative ways to use LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Robots to inspire students’ interest in STEM education. He was honored to share his expertise with other teachers at a conference hosted by his alma mater.

“Giving back to UNCW is important to me because I had such a good experience here,” Glenn said. “I’ve always been impressed with the rigor at the Watson College of Education.”

The North Carolina Science, Mathematics and Technology Education Center (SMT), a nonprofit organization in Raleigh that focuses on providing children with the resources, knowledge and skills to excel in science, mathematics and technology, was the primary event sponsor. 

“There is a great union here between the university, the public schools, businesses and industry,” said Sam Houston, SMT president and chief executive officer.

According to Houston, STEM stands not only for science, technology, engineering and math, but also “strategies that engage minds.” The Watson College conference sessions provided them with a wealth of ideas to take back to their classrooms.

“Young people today don’t want to be lectured, and they don’t want their teachers to hover over their classrooms,” he said. “They want their teachers to be their guides, to help them experience learning on a higher level.”