Originally Published: July 26, 2015 6 a.m.
About 80 kindergarten through eighth-grade teachers from throughout Yavapai County attended a free three-day STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) workshop held at Prescott College.
Some of the teachers were provided a small stipend by their schools to be there, but the majority were there by choice with no compensation.
The focus on STEAM as opposed to simply STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) is a movement that has been growing in recent years.
"What STEAM means is that it's not just science, technology, engineering and math as individual subjects," said Dr. Alice Christie, who taught the workshop and has written a book on ways to incorporate STEM and STEAM into the classroom. "They have to be interconnected and we have to break down those barriers. Why leave out the language arts teachers and the arts? If we're going to talk about true integration, we include the arts."
One of the primary goals of the workshop, according to Christie, was to get teachers of all disciplines from a school to work and plan together. This way, they can use each other's specialized knowledge to create unique and engaging activities for young students that perhaps a math teacher wouldn't be able to think up by him or herself.
Emma Gifford, a sixth-grade math teacher at Granite Mountain School (formerly Granite Mountain Middle School) believes STEM and STEAM are missing from most classrooms.
"It's a whole new way of teaching in that you're posing a problem to students," Gifford said.
An example given in the workshop of a problem that might be applicable to the classroom is that airline companies are losing a tremendous amount of money (reportedly billions of dollars) every year because the remains of bugs their planes encounter while in the air roughens the wings' leading edge and causes the engines to burn more fuel to make up for the drag.
"There is no solution yet, so posing that question to kids and seeing what solutions they come up with through testing, engineering and redesign is a great way to get kids in the mindset that they could solve world problems and have the critical thinking of trying new things," Gifford said.
Last year, Granite Mountain School-which has undergone a complete rebranding recently-actually became a STEAM focused school when it received a grant from the Arizona Science Center, according to the school's principal, Teresa Bruso.
"Our teachers have been training all year and have begun to embed it into the curriculum," Bruso said.
Seventeen teachers from Granite Mountain attended the workshop.
"The 21st century career place doesn't necessarily need students who have a wide range of knowledge," Bruso said. "They need students who know information and how to apply it and how to think beyond it and how to problem solve, and that's what STEAM integration does," Bruso said.
Some of the feedback from teachers displayed on a white board in the room about their experience was:
"This workshop has pushed me to think beyond my comfort one."
"It's one of summer classes that at the end of the day you are glad you get to come back the next day."
"The best way to spend my day? With passionate teachers sharing ideas!!!"
The Yavapai County Education Service Agency sponsored the event using funds provided through the Forest Fees Management Association, which doles out a a portion of fees and permits generated on Forest Service lands to counties. The counties then typically splits that money equally between schools and roads.
As for how the Yavapai County Education Service Agency (YCESA) likes to use that money is up to what teachers are craving, according to Stan Goligoski, YCESA Executive Director.
"If the teachers want steam, this is what we give them," Goligoski said.
Other ways YCESA uses FFMA money are: putting together substitute teacher training; new teacher recruitment; and hiring a lobbyist to represent education in the region at the state level.
For more information on what Forest Fees Management dollars are, visit this article online for links to related articles.
Follow Max Efrein on Twitter @mefrein. Reach him at 928-445-3333 ext. 1105, or 928-642-7864.