After yesterday’s heavy dose of skepticism, I headed out to day 2 of Vancouver’s Mini Maker Faire with the hope of finding someone who was doing STEM right. Recognize that I’m not heaped in experience in the STEM education world, so who am I to judge? But I have been around schools for a few years and I do recognize good learning when I see it.
I wanted to make sure that I headed over to Templeton Secondary School’s STEM program booth early on. I’d spent some time last year talking to a student in the program who was energetic, knowledgable, confident and eager to share his work, and I was hopeful that he’d been truly representative of what was going on in the program as whole. I found a student immediately who was eager to talk to me about how he was working on studying Muons by replicating experiments that had been done in the 70s. He showed me sensors that he was using to track Muons as they travelled through the Earth’s atmosphere and was hoping to produce and position multiple sensors throughout our region in order to be able to better study how Muons move. He then showed me a number of other projects that they’d worked on from model bridge building to moving carts to building simple rockets. Jr students in the program talked to me about how they were working with different combinations of chemicals in fertilizers to control the growth of radishes. I then got a chance to meet their teacher, Mike Hengeveld, who was as passionate about the program and projects as the students. The clear connection and intentionality in relating the student work to curriculum was evident. Although, Mike explained that it was more important to him that the students learned how to do science than it was to learn specific factoids about scientific concepts. His approach to curriculum has been to look at the common elements between the various different Science curricula over the past decades and ensure that the elements that are common to all are taught. Those that come and go over the different iterations of curriculum are treated as optional. This thinking, I think, fits well with current trends in our provincial curriculum that looks more a bigger concepts than the minutia within those concepts.
I particularly enjoyed the fact that this year’s booth for the Templeton STEM program is completely different than last years. While there is crossover in concept between the two years’ presentations, the projects themselves are very different. There is an organic nature to deciding what projects will be pursued and how they will unfold. While I didn’t have a chance to get into the detail of how the year is planned out (or not), I suspect that the interests of students and teachers in the program provide that direction in a spirit of true inquiry. I would assume that the experience of one student is completely different than that of another within and across the years.
As I said before, I’m not sure that I’m necessarily in a position yet to judge what an exemplary STEM program might look like but, from what I can see, Templeton is doing a lot of things right and they are certainly a program that I will be looking to as I develop the program at St. George’s. If you live in the Vancouver area and are interested in the what is going on at Templeton, they are holding “Temp Talks” this coming Wednesday night from 7pm-9pm. The school is located at 727 Templeton Dr, Vancouver, BC. The only grudge I have with the program is that they didn’t consult my calendar to make sure that I was free! Based on the discussion I had with students yesterday, anyone who attends is in for a real treat!