TEES program trains educators to teach engineering to grade school students
It’s never too early to engage children in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). In fact, studies show the earlier, the better. An innovative program is training prekindergarten through fifth grade educators in school districts in the Valley how to do it in an easy to use, hands-on series of classroom modules that appeal to children while meeting and exceeding state-mandated educational requirements.
“To remain competitive in the global marketplace, we must significantly increase the number of STEM graduates we produce,” said Dr. M. Katherine Banks, vice chancellor and dean of Texas A&M Engineering and director of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES). “Early exposure to engineering as a career path is critical and this particular approach ignites the imagination through hands-on, experiential learning, while helping students of all ages understand how engineering is at work in everything we touch in the world around us.”
During two separate workshops, 85 assistant superintendents, math, science and STEM coordinators and teachers experienced Hands-on Standards (HOS) STEM in Action, learning modules designed and packaged to appeal to kids and developed by early education experts in engineering, mathematics and science.
“Teachers are given tools to enable the students to develop critical problem-solving skills in even the earliest learners,” said Dr. Johannes Strobel, director of Educational Outreach Programs, Dwight Look College of Engineering at Texas A&M University and TEES, one of the co-developers of HOS STEM in Action. “For instance, one module has first graders design shoes that have stronger grip. Students explore the connection between the natural and the human-made worlds by designing better hiking shoes using nature for inspiration. Teachers are able to engage students in a real-world STEM experience that is easy to implement and fun to teach.”
“Young children are naturally inquisitive about the world around them,” said Belinda Hinojosa, coordinator for Elementary Science in the Mission Consolidated Independent School District and a participant in the workshop. “They touch, feel, experiment and create; attempting to make sense of how things work. The Hand2mind learning modules presented by Dr. Strobel provide active learning opportunities that satisfies the curiosity of the young mind at a pivotal stage. This active learning results in the building of confidence and the belief that they (children) are capable learners and designers of their world.”