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DISD teachers learn to engage kids in hands-on science at SMU STEM Academy

June 14, 2017

DALLAS (SMU) – At an SMU summer program, 18 middle-schoolers of a different sort will shoot off rockets, kayak the Trinity River and collect data on animals at the Dallas Zoo. But these aren't kids – they are Dallas ISD middle school science teachers devoting two weeks of summer to learning new ways to engage their students in science.

Teachers from six middle schools are the first to take part in a June 12-23 STEM Academy at SMU's Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. Supported by the Texas Instruments Foundation and O’Donnell Foundation, the goal of the new program is to increase the numbers of students who study and pursue careers in math and science-related fields.

Science teachers wield considerable influence on students' interests and decisions, says SMU STEM education expert Leanne Ketterlin-Geller, who leads the academy and speaks from experience as a former high school science teacher.

Giving middle-school teachers tools to catch the imagination of their students is critical, she says, as middle school is the time when students develop self-perception of their science and math skills.

"These perceptions are significant, even if not accurate,” Ketterlin-Geller said. “They often set the path for their high school courses."

At the STEM Academy, teachers will learn to better engage middle-schoolers by creating their own projects and immersing themselves in science. Members of the news media are invited to cover these hands-on activities. Contact ngeorge@smu.edu for more information on specific times and locations:

  • Thursday morning, June 15, Dallas Zoo: Teachers will learn how to turn an informal learning space like the zoo into an active learning opportunity through observation and data collection.
  • Monday, June 19, Rocket building and launching, SMU campus: Teachers will design and build rockets to lift a payload off an asteroid, lift-off scheduled at 3 p.m. on the SMU campus
  • Thursday, June 22, Trinity River Audubon Center: Teachers will explore the Great Trinity Forest by kayak, learning about habitat and protected wildlife, then get their hands wet using scientific tools and techniques to study life in the Trinity River wetlands.

One million additional STEM graduates will be needed over the next decade to meet the United States' demand for workers in related fields, according to the National Math and Science Initiative. Yet, since 2013, just 16.9 percent of Dallas ISD students have selected STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) as their high school pathway.  

Within four years, more than 200, or 74 percent of Dallas ISD middle school science teachers will be trained at SMU's STEM Academy to actively engage more than 47,000 Dallas middle school students in science.

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Media Contacts:

Nancy George
SMU News & Communications
george@smu.edu
214-768-7674  972-965-3769 (cell)or

Yolette Garcia
Simmons School of Education and Human Development
ygarcia@smu.edu
214-768-2206