A Commitment to Innovation-
Distance Learning Opportunities at Stem3 Academy
Ellis Crasnow, PhD, Help Group Director of Online and STEM Education
With three months of distance learning behind them during the regular school year, and a two-week summer camp followed by summer school during the extended school year, teachers at STEM3 Academy have been refining their methods and procedures to engage students more deeply and support learning more effectively.
Our summer camp attracted students from as far away as New York and Canada, and with more than half of the students out of state, demonstrating the need for quality online instruction for students with diverse needs across the country. Students built racers and lava lamps, made edible slime and marble drops, and all had fun. During summer school, STEM students dissected rats and performed experiments, reviewed geometry and learned to code in Minecraft.
One thing that has emerged is that students highly value real time interactions, whether direct instruction from the teacher, interactions and collaborations with their peers, or making or participating in presentations and discussions. Another thing that emerged is that with planning, we can send home resources that enable them to make and do, and we can have them engage in rich and meaningful projects.
STEM3 Academy has rededicated itself to a basic set of evidence-based strategies for its fall online classes. We will offer opportunities for a high level of student engagement which incorporates direct instruction as well as strategies to give students the opportunity to show mastery. There will be discussions and debates, assessments and assignments, Socratic seminars, and projects in all subjects. In addition to the core classes of social studies, math, English Language Arts and science, STEM offers computer programming, engineering and design, Spanish or Mandarin, and opportunities for physical activity in all grades. AP classes in Calculus, English, and Human Geography are also offered to challenge high school students.
Our teachers and staff are ready to communicate and collaborate with parents and other service providers on a regular basis—parent associations will be established early, and regular meetings to which all parents are invited will take place weekly. We also look forward to social events, opportunities for parents to mingle, as well as game nights and movie evenings. We realize that keeping parents informed and being transparent are steps toward increasing parent involvement in our STEM community.
Fall 2020 is yet another opportunity for STEM3 Academy teachers and staff to be innovative and creative, to involve students in building and making, to help students discover their own passions and to develop their own expertise. In an age in which science has an ever increasing role in fueling advances in space exploration and medicine, in engineering and technology, our students have an essential part to play.