Wake County educators learn innovative ways to teach in SummerSTEM Program


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A group of Wake County teachers are gearing up for this school year by getting in the classroom themselves.

Over the span of two weeks, more than 50 educators from 25 schools will visit six different companies in the Triangle.

The SummerSTEM program allows teachers to interact with local companies that are leading the way in technology. And, they not only learn what skills their students should be learning, but how educators should be teaching those skills.

“You don’t have to travel more than 20 miles to find some of the most technical jobs in the world,” said Shane Barry, a science teacher at Athens Drive High School.

With the help of Wake Ed Partnership, the Wake County Public School System is taking advantage of that proximity by taking teachers on field trips to companies like Red Hat, Syngenta and SAS.

“Trying to help teachers create projects and problem-based learning opportunities for their students that are really strongly connected to problems that we’re working on in the real world,” said Scott McQuiggan, Director of SAS Curriculum Pathways.

Problem-based learning projects incorporate skills like critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity. All of those skills are commonly used and highly valued at companies like SAS.

“We live project-based learning. We learn together, we collaborate, communicate, we’re always having to engage in critical thinking,” said Tammi Kay George, a SAS employee.

“To be able to show the connections between the career world and what they’re doing with our students in the classroom is huge,” said Krista Adair, a science and math teacher at Wake Young Women’s Leadership Academy.

From SAS employees, teachers learned about how important group projects are. They also learned how they should conduct them: with less instruction and less help when students hit a road block. They say students need to know what to do, when they don’t know what to do.

“What’s been passed along as skills that are looked for in these types of technical jobs, that’s been the most helpful thing I would say, is to really know what we should be encouraging our students to be doing,” said Barry.

Educators also learned the importance of being familiar with data, statistics, and computer coding.

“Students start to make connections of, ‘Oh, I can work for a company like that just down the road. And we’re doing these projects here in my classroom and here’s how it’s related to what that company’s doing,” said McQuiggan.

“It gives them some drive and something to look forward too, and goals to set for their future,” said Adair.

Last week high school teachers got to learn a thing or two from local top-tech companies. This week elementary educators will be taking field trips to businesses throughout the Triangle to learn how to put some pep in their STEM prep.

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