Posted: Monday, July 28, 2014

Twenty GCS middle school teachers are gaining valuable skills in teaching STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) concepts through training offered by Clemson University and funded by a grant from Bosch Corporation.

Greenville County Schools received a $60,000 grant from Bosch Corporation last fall to develop a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Technology (STEAM) Expert Teacher program to build a community of STEAM Teacher Experts.

Chris Burras, GCS Academic Specialist for Science, explained, “Teachers are experiencing everything they want their students to do in a STEAM classroom. They have to create a problem, conduct research, and discover a workable solution,” she said.

The hypothetical problem presented to the educators was to consider the environmental impact of re-routing the Reedy River away from Falls Park. The first activity involved meeting with community mentors from Upstate Forever, ReWa, Livable/Sustainable Communities, Clemson University, and the Greenville Parks and Recreation Department. The teams presented their ideas to the experts, who gave feedback and recommendations for ways to improve their projects.

Teachers visited Falls Park to take samples and gather data to help them develop data necessary to support their proposed solution.

They discovered that the experts were not only excited about the opportunity to assist, but also about the opportunity to work with students. “They said they have wanted to work with schools in the past but were never asked, or didn’t know who to ask,” commented one teacher.

“We discovered that learning in a STEAM classroom is a huge shift from a regular classroom,” said one teacher. “We will have to re-center our focus so that we know how it will impact the classroom and our teaching style.”

In addition to collecting data, teachers used technology tools for research. They conducted online interviews with experts using Google Hangouts, which is like a chat room, completing the interviews in a matter of minutes. They presented their findings at the end of the course using PowerPoint, Prezi, and iMovie technology, just as they will expect their students to do.

Teachers will begin implementation of the STEAM concepts in their own classrooms in a few weeks. During the school year, they will complete a third course offered by Clemson that will include classroom visits by the Clemson professors and Mrs. Burras. The teachers believe learning will be cross-curricular, involving persuasive writing, technology, and other academic areas.

After completing coursework and obtaining endorsement as a STEAM Expert Teacher, these educators will become part of a STEAM Expert Team to collaborate on curriculum, professional development, data, assessment of their content area, and school improvement planning. Employing the “train the trainer” model, the STEAM Expert Team will provide training and support for teachers throughout Greenville County Schools.

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