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 Teachers Work Together to Learn About New Science Standards

A group of about 25 middle school teachers explored science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at the San Diego County Office of Education main campus this week while learning how to better connect with students.

The activities were part of the NextGen STEM professional learning program, which ran from July 14 to 18. The teachers will also reconvene for three days after school starts to reinforce and refresh what they learned over the summer.

In addition to the math and science teachers, there were also some STEM professionals and college students at the weeklong gathering, which was a partnership between the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE), UCSD's San Diego Science Project and Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific (SPAWAR).

This was the first year for the NextGen STEM event, which took the place of the STEMposiums SDCOE organized between 2011 and 2013.

Activities this year included a day at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and a variety of interactive, science-based lessons featuring viscosity tubes, rocket launchers, and vacuum-sealed jars.

One goal of the organizers was to help define the role of STEM educators in the classroom, said Jim Rohr, an education champion at SPAWAR.

“As a STEM professional, you’re not so much a math educator or a scientist, you’re really all of these things,” he said. “I’m excited to see what the teachers are going to come up with.”

It’s a powerful opportunity for teachers to collaborate and network, said Michael Salamanca, a teacher at Madison High School in San Diego.

“It helps to get a better grasp of what the Next Generation Science Standards look like and, more importantly, what they will look like in the classroom,” he said.

The Next Generation Science Standards were adopted last year. They require that science is taught in all grades by engaging students in scientific and engineering practices such as planning their own investigations.