Watson College of Education Hosts Second Annual K-12 STEM Education Conference

Friday, January 08, 2016

Exploring the engineering concepts of a working turbine and electric vehicles were just a few of the workshops regional educators participated in during the second annual K-12 STEM Education Conference held Jan. 8 at the Watson College of Education.

The event, hosted by the college’s Center for Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (CESTEM), was one in a series of three-day events aimed at helping incorporate STEM and digital education into the classroom.

Approximately 150 teachers from public school districts across the region attended the conference, which brings STEM leaders from business and education together to provide professional development for K-12 teachers and administrators. Faculty from Watson College and the College of Arts and Sciences, local business leaders, state organization professionals, educators and teacher-leaders delivered more than 30 presentations.

“We hope that participating teachers will take home at least one new innovation and activity that better assists them to meet the North Carolina Standard Course of Study for their grade level and discipline,” said CESTEM Director Dennis Kubasko. “We anticipate that teachers will extend their content knowledge in the STEM-related disciplines, as well as see that integration across STEM disciplines is productive. The integration of the disciplines is something that is not easily learned so they are looking for hands-on practical applications.” 

The conference provides invaluable information for STEM educators, said Molly Davis, a seventh grade science teacher and the Science Olympiad coach at Noble Middle School in Wilmington.

“A lot of us haven’t had training on how to implement STEM in our classrooms, and having CESTEM is a great resource for teachers,” she said. “Not only do they provide conferences like this, but they also have a loaning library that allows us to borrow tools. That is a great help to us.”

Keynote speaker Karl Ricanek, a UNCW computer science professor and founder and director of the Face Aging Group Research Lab, shared with teachers how his work demonstrates a real-world application of the intersection of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Taking the STEM faculty members and pairing them with what [Watson College of Education] is doing and translating that back to the classroom for K-12 is a wonderful concept,” he said. “I hope we continue to do things like this and bridge the gaps, because it benefits the community overall.”

The conference was co-sponsored by the North Carolina Science, Mathematics and Technology Center, a nonprofit organization in Raleigh that focuses on providing children with the resources, knowledge and skills to excel in science, mathematics and technology, and the Southeast Education Alliance.

-- Venita Jenkins