Bringing STEM Professionals into the Classroom

Sarah Nitsche and Norma Sullivan are NPS middle-school math/science teachers involved in LIFT2 (Leadership Initiatives for Teaching and Technology), a professional learning program that brings teachers into STEM organizations for summer internships and provides additional training during the year.  (Sarah wrote about last summer’s internship here.)

Inspired by LIFT2, both Norma (who has completed the program) and Sarah (currently enrolled) have been bringing STEM professionals into their classrooms to raise awareness and pique interest around STEM-related fields.  Here’s what they have to say:

Norma Sullivan writes:

I have been participating since January in a program called, a Boston-based non-profit company that strives to improve science and technology awareness in middle schools. Every other week, the same scientist comes to my classroom and teaches a topic that meets the requirements of MCAS and state curriculum frameworks. The lessons have been fun, hands-on, informative and engaging.

Our visiting scientist is Darshan Pandya, who is working on his masters at BU Medical and is doing research at Beth Israel on Alzheimer’s. We have covered topics such as Acids and Bases, Polymers, How Do You “DO” Science, Separation of Substances, and Observation.

Sarah Nitsche writes:

At the beginning of the year I sent a letter home asking for volunteers who work in a STEM-related field to come speak to my math classes about their career. I was blown away by the responses. Parents and the community want to get involved. The response was so great that I’ve had to choose among them, focusing on the topics most closely related to our classwork. So far I have had three speakers — an environmental engineer and two architects — all of whom are parents of students I teach.  As a result of frequent communication and collaboration, the speakers have been a fantastic success!

Once I made contact with interested speakers, I let them know the major topics I cover in 7th grade math and gave them a general idea of what I think the students would enjoy and be interested in. Here’s the format we used:

  • 10-15 mins talking about career and how they got into that field (a PowerPoint with interesting slides to capture the career goes over very well)
  • 20-30 mins doing an activity to simulate on a smaller scale what the speaker does on a regular basis and could be involved with (a hands-on activity is crucial)
  • 5 mins for Q and A

I gave the speakers at least a month’s notice, and throughout that time, we exchanged ideas and I previewed everything beforehand. I encouraged the parents to speak and consult with their children to get ideas as well. This keeps the lines of communication open for everyone. These parents were excited about contributing and wanted to get involved. It did not take much planning on my part at all. With a little direction and communication, this truly can be inspiring for many students.