When I heard the great news about Tennessee science students from the Nation’s Report Card, I wondered, “What helped Tennessee achieve this incredible growth?” Commissioner McQueen pointed to Tennessee’s hands-on, science classrooms in her Classroom Chronicles post on the NAEP science growth:
“When I first dug into our results, my mind immediately went to classrooms where I have seen science in action… We have more and more partners who are coming around this work to support innovative new approaches, like blended learning environments, STEM labs, work-based learning, and different professional learning models for educators.”
Commissioner McQueen is right. There are schools across Tennessee that are growing their science, technology, engineering, and math programs with an emphasis on giving students a chance to directly experiment and apply concepts to reality. To show off some of the great work happening in Tennessee schools, here are three programs in the news that are worth sharing and celebrating.
1. William Blount STEM students build models for Chilhowee Dam research
[box] “Students in Randy Puckett’s class at William Blount High School see directly how studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics relate to the real world. They are using what they learn in his STEM II class this semester to study the Chilhowee Dam.
The dam is currently undergoing repairs for seepage, and Puckett’s students are creating models and testing various possible solutions to improve the dam. Using iPads and concrete, power tools, sand, soda bottles and more, in a lab carved out of a couple of automotive shop bays they are building scale models, testing theories, collecting data, improving designs and testing some more.”
2. Tyner students learning by building energy-efficient tiny house powered by solar energy
[box] “Learning about renewable energy doesn’t involve listening to lectures and staring at textbooks for students at Tyner Academy. Instead, they’re learning by doing — building an energy-efficient tiny house that will be powered by solar energy.
“A lot of people don’t know how much you can do with the sun,” said Tynia Palmer, a junior at Tyner. “Now we do.” Palmer and her classmates are working on the house’s thermal roof, and in coming weeks will be adding solar panels, a composting toilet and a solar oven to the structure.
“Sponsoring the Tyner tiny house is a way to accomplish these twin goals and represents an investment in these students’ future careers by giving them hands-on experience with STEM concepts they are learning in the classroom,” STEM education, program manager Charley Spencer said.”
Read more at the Chattanooga Times Free Press[/box]
3. Lemelson-MIT awards $10,000 to students at the STEM School to build an invention
[box] “Students at the STEM School Chattanooga have been awarded $10,000 to invent a detector for bicyclists who are riding in protected bike lanes. The team of eight students is in the initial stages of planning their invention, explained student Alayna Baker. The team will use sensors to detect cyclists and then notify drivers they are nearby at intersections or
The team of eight students is in the initial stages of planning their invention, explained student Alayna Baker. The team will use sensors to detect cyclists and then notify drivers they are nearby at intersections or stop lights. The team decided on this invention because of the growing cyclist community in Chattanooga and “the issue seemed close to home,” Baker said.Tony Donen,
Tony Donen, principal at the STEM School, said this grant exemplifies the spirit of the school, as it encourages students to be inventors, problem-solvers and entrepreneurs. “At school we want to provide students with the opportunity to identify problems and figure out solutions,” he said. “They don’t just go to school to regurgitate information.” Read more at The Chattanooga Times Press.[/box]
These stories are just a snapshot of the hands-on learning happening across the state. Thes e programs along with other programs that emphasize science in action grow student understanding in unique ways, allowing students to take ownership of their science education and connect the theoretical to the practical. As we celebrate Tennessee’s science growth, it is important to also celebrate the innovative work of educators and communities that accelerated Tennessee’s growth. As Tennessee students experience science in action, Tennessee grows and our students develop the skills to become tomorrow’s scientists and problem-solvers.