“If America is to maintain our high standard of living, we must continue to innovate. We are competing with nations many times our size. We don’t have a single brain to waste. Math and science are the engines of innovation. With these engines we can lead the world. We must demystify math and science so that all students feel the joy that follows understanding.” By Dr. Michael Brown

(From Inside the Classroom, Outside the Box Blog)

Recently I presented and attended at the 7th Annual STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) Conference at UNC- Charlotte. I love this conference and look forward to it every year as I learn so many things that I can bring back to my teams. Now that I have a blog, I also thought that I would share what I learned, which will also help me reflect, with my followers.

The science conference has 4 breakout sessions and a keynote speaker. I presented during the first break out session on Using Technology in the Classroom and if you follow my blog, you know I post a lot about technology. ( If not see one of my past technology posts )

The first breakout session I attended was on ‘Problem-Based Learning’ (PBL). The presenters’ were from a S.T.E.M elementary school. Problem based Learning is a teaching method that presents using real world problem situations. The students assume a role and collaborate finding a solution while the teacher facilitates. I have done a few PBL’s before in the classroom but by no means an expert. What I enjoyed about the way they presented was that they let us participate in a PBL they created. They then walked through the steps of creating one. Part of the reason why I didn’t do a lot of PBL’s was because I was making elaborate ones. What they showed me was that PBL’s don’t have to be that way as they just as effective if they are short. Here are the steps of creating an effect PBL.

1. Begin with a problem that is authentic, relevant to curriculum and connected to the real world.

2. Have students gather information. What do they know and what do they need to know?

3. Students determine how to solve the problem. This is when it is hands-on and they can try different hypotheses’ as a team as they record results.

4. The teacher facilitates and gives resources not answers.

5.  The students share results.

PBL’s are motivates students to learn along with supplying the students with vital 21st century skills such as communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. They do take time to create but it you start off creating one a week you will start building your PBL resource bank and if you get other teachers on your team to also create them you can all share.

The second breakout session I attended was ‘Measuring Up is STEM Classroom’. The presenter was a Math Professor at UNCC Dr. Harbaugh. During this session I learned how measurement connected to the new common core. I learned the new technical mathematical terms such as basic math quantities (length, mass, time and temperature) and derived quantities (perimeter/area, density, weight). I learned the importance of estimation and that we as teachers really need to have the students estimate how much before they actually measure. He also shared this new site that has movie clips for science and math that connect to the real world.

The third breakout session I attended was ‘Arguing like a Scientist’. Karen James was the presenter who is also a fellow science teacher and friend from a different school. I really enjoyed this session as it fit perfectly into the writing portion of the Common Core and something I have no real background on or resources as it is new to our curriculum. It is also what real scientist do. Our presenter started with giving us a discrepant event. We had to decide if the “item” in front of us was alive or not and why? We had to write down our thoughts in compete sentences just like the students would have to do. She then gave us an article that we read and gave us a debate team carousel (get yours here After reading the article she asked us a question in which we had to give our opinion and explain why, then pass it to our neighbor who had to add supporting argument and why. We then passed it to a third classmate who had to add an opposing argument no matter what they original opinion was. (this box is my favorite as it force the student to think outside the box if they have to pick an argument with something they agree with). Finally you pass it to a fourth and final team that give their ‘two cents’. After we finished the article and carousel we went back to our discrepant event and investigated further. Below are some of the resource she suggested….



Why Scientists Disagree? By Gina Cervetti

Negotiating Science: The Critical Role of Argument in Science Inquiry by Brain Hand

Questions, Claims and Evidence: the Important Place of Argument in Children’s Science Writing by Lori Norton-Meier, Brian Hand, Lynn Hockenberry, Kim Wise

Academic Conversations: Classroom Talk that Fosters Critical Thinking and Content Understandings by Jeff Zwiers and Marie Crawford

As you can see I learned a lot and I am hope this post helps other teachers as much as the conference helped me. Below are other great STEM websites that I have come across as well. If you have other great sites, resources or ideas on any of the break out sessions, please comment below and let us know.

Great STEM Websites:

Orginal Blog Post

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About teacherstone

I am an assistant principal of a K-4 elementary school. I have taught grades 2nd-5th and served as an instructioanl technology coach for the district for six years. I am a NBCT, STAR teacher, and DEN teacher. I am also a technology adjunct professor at UAB Birmingham. I am currenlty working on my PhD in Educational Leadership and Instructional Technology Curriculum.

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