SummerSTEM Day One: What’s Your Why?

By Elise Saenger-Heyl

What’s your why? This question is of vital importance in the education sphere and arguably in every business and industry. It drives every teacher and every student, whether known or unknown. Why is it that you do what you do? This question forms the base upon which SummerSTEM builds the project-based learning (PBL) training and industry site visits that will take place over the next two weeks. Educators from various Wake County Public Schools, specializing in different content areas and with many different why’s, have come together for one week to enhance instruction in their school buildings. Coming in pairs, teams of educators work together to discover PBL opportunities, as they are immersed in college-level classrooms and local STEM business and organizations.

Day one answered the question, what is project-based learning and why should we use it? What we learned is that PBL opportunities bring the “why” home for learning. Project-based learning engages students in authentic, meaningful learning experiences that help illustrate the relevance and application of content in their lives. For example, a science PBL at Mills Park Middle School, inspired by SummerSTEM, culminated in students presenting a new sustainability plan to their city council. This example was shared by Danielle McCaslin, one of the Wake County teachers serving as a SummerSTEM coach this year. Danielle and our other experienced SummerSTEM coaches will guide their fellow educators in both understanding and implementing project-based learning throughout the 2018-2019 school year.

So, why is project-based learning so significant? Suzie Boss, the author of Real-World Projects, puts it best: “When students are engaged in real-world problem-solving, they’re in the driver’s seat of their own learning.”

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