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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Wonderful STEAM Resources: McAuliffe Center Conference

I spent the day learning about a host of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) resources, ideas, and perspectives at the McAuliffe Center Conference at Framingham State University.

The Director of the McAuliffe Center, Dr. Irene Porro, kindly welcomed local educators, parents, students, government representatives, private industry personnel, and Challenger Center leaders from around the country at the start of the day. She remembered Christa McAuliffe's bravery and tragic ending. I vividly remember walking into a local sandwich shop to hear the devastating news in 1986 when I was student teaching in Boston. Thanks to the support of so many, Christa's memory lives on in the wonderful work the McAuliffe Center does, work my students profited from last year during a field trip and work that students will again profit from this year with another field trip as well as access to the rich resources shared today.

The day began with a philosophical view of STEM education. Porro began by sharing her perspective of the future as "something we are responsible for and something we can shape." Then we watched the film, Overview. The author of the book, The Overview Effect, Frank White, then led a multidisciplinary panel including a geology PhD student from Brown University, a Framingham State University teacher educator, and Natick Labs scientist. The three women discussed how they view STEM education and its impact on the world today. Specific notes related to this are included in the Storify below.

Next, a UMass Professor and national physics educator, author, and leader presented his innovative physics program about sports on the moon.  Again, specific names and notes are included below.

Finally a panel that included three STEM leaders discussed the urgency and possibility for STEAM education today. They introduced terrific resources such as the Massachusetts Life Science Center, CASIS, Google's STEM related stories and efforts. Each of the panelists relayed their perspectives and experience with regard to STEM inspiration and pathways. They supported STEM learning in school, K-12 computer science and coding, field trips to local labs and innovation centers, and access to grants, expert speakers, and educational materials provided by their centers and elsewhere.

Lastly, we attended the Open House at the McAuliffe Integrated Science Center which offers virtual space exploration experiences, integrated science resources, and planetarium shows. I learned that the Framingham State Library is a repository for NASA educational materials, and there are free resources available to teachers there to support our STEAM study and related space investigations.

Overall the day was a worthy learning event even if I did get a little frustrated since I desire greater access to tech resources, voice, and choice in my current position in order to bring to fruition many of the ideas shared. I'll keep thinking about how I might bridge that gap. In the meantime, below is a Storify of many tweets I wrote during the day, a Storify that includes specific names and many resources mentioned throughout the day.