Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Washington College GIS Program Designs Online Training for Teachers and Students through the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top Grant

As our nation tries to remain competitive when it comes to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), it is vital that we embrace new methods for helping our nation’s educators inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and technologists who will ultimately drive innovation for the U.S.

The GIS program has entered into a venture with the Education Department at Washington College to create an online training course for its teachers. This course will give teachers the resources they need to incorporate STEM into their classrooms. This project is funded by a U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top Grant. Over the course of four years the GIS curriculum will be turned into a resource for teachers and their students to learn key concepts of STEM and GIS.

Another part of this project is making STEM entertaining for students’ and incorporating it into everyday learning practices. To kick this off we have recently introduced a STEM Club at the local elementary school in Chestertown, MD where students will be learning Google Sketch Up and about basic machines and technologies. Twice a week, 5-12 students will learn the tools and skills associated with Google SketchUp. The student’s will be given a design task that will require them to create a model with specific measurements in 3D. The model will have to look presentable and functional. The students will not only learn about STEM concepts, but will learn to work together and collaborate on ideas.

Over the summer there will be a week long teacher training on the STEM material. This training will provide a chance for the teachers to dive in to the material while having the support of the people who created the material. This will also give the GIS lab a chance to receive some feedback on the lessons from the teachers so that we can make improvements to the material in the second year of the grant. This STEM curriculum touches on Google Earth, Google Sketch Up, Google Earth Tours, GPS, the use of GIS in Ecology, as well as the fundamentals of STEM. With the creation of this course we are hoping to encourage more teachers to incorporate STEM into their classrooms and show them how GIS is the perfect vehicle for doing that.

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