STEM Summit 2015


On February 20th, the Princeton Schools Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) area teachers hosted a conference for students interested in STEM-related careers. 

Many area companies and institutions participated. There were about 400 total students from the Middle and High Schools who participated.

Opening keynote, Anita Hall, was an engineer from General Mills

Elim Care & Rehab:

The High School High Mileage Vehicle team was on hand!

Rocks and things:

Fairview Northland Medical Imaging:

Crystal Cabinets:

Robotics club:

Other views of the summit:

The four C's for learning in the 21st Century

Teachers at Princeton Schools understand that learning in the 21st century is different than it might have been even a few years ago. In general, the four C's illustrated below frame the primary foci for teaching and learning in the 21st century. These considerations are often braided into lessons and learning goals.

Coding in Middle School: Training the next generation of technology users

Students in Mrs. Arens' class are learning how to code. Students learn how to program their own apps and games, and learn skills that can be built upon as they progress through school. Students use to build a desktop video game and learn the basic building blocks of computer coding. 

Coding is becoming a new priority in schools, as more and more companies are looking to hire quality coders, and paying them well for it.

For more information on coding:

Students create websites to share research on nuclear science

Years ago, students might have created poster projects to share research. This might have been a great way to share learning with a class, but why should it stop there?

Mrs. Buss's accelerated freshmen science class is building websites to share their research with the world.

Students began by learning about nuclear reactions and modern uses for these reactions. The research goes far beyond the atomic bomb. Nuclear medicine, uses and agriculture, and industrial power are all explored as modern uses.

Students were given specific research areas, and were tasked with creating a website to share their research. The websites, which can be shared with the world, include carefully researched information, images, and video sources to help to explain their topic.

Students see the real-world relevance to this work, and their work can legitimately inform others. Great real-world connections!

A new, 21st Century approach to choice projects

The school project has evolved, and it is exciting for students and teachers. It may take a big shift, but many teachers are reaping the benefits!

The olden-days way to assign a project was to give specific instructions as to how each individual component was to be completed. This was less learning opportunity than learning recipe. If students assembled the ingredients in the correct manner, they got a good grade. There was little interest in displaying knowledge or learning, just completion.

Eventually, most of these projects gave in to a less compliance-based experience. It has been popular for some time to have choice projects. In this model, students are to show their learning by doing any one of several designated projects. The best part of this model is that students can seek the type of project that best suits their learning style and interests. Choices may have included poster, diorama, skit, model, etc. The more tech-savvy of these projects may come with several digital tools which students may choose to show their learning.

Even better, is a real shift in the teaching and learning dynamic. I call this the choice project on steroids. The students learn the entry-level material and are given several open-ended questions to research. The project is literally the display of learning.  In this project-based model, the means of showing learning is not specified, only the final criteria for evaluation. The instructor creates or collaborates with students to create a rubric that represents the ideal learning represented in the project. Quality indicators may include professionalism, accuracy, research, product, fidelity, etc. Notice that there are few references here to the poster or website. Students will choose those as they please. One student may begin preliminary research and feel they can adequately show learning through the building of a scale model. Another student who is adept using Photoshop, may choose to show what they have learned by way of a video scrapbook. Another student whose passion is music may express the learning in an epic ballad. Minecraft model? Why not? Does it meet the learning targets? If so, go nuts!

The beauty of the third model is that it is the learning that is the focus of the effort, not the medium. When the learning targets are emphasized, the resulting in increased autonomy and self-direction, as well as increased learning. Students enjoy the openness of the challenge, and the ability to build upon their passions. Some students may need a bit of a nudge, so it is a good idea for teachers to allow for some brainstorming and sharing or proposals early, so students can bet a better idea what they can do based on the choices of others.

There are a few keys to making this kind of project meaningful: First are clear learning goals and criterion by which learning can be evaluated. This should be built into a detailed rubric. Second is enough research or exploration to happen BEFORE the manner of learning expression is chosen. Finally, a reflective proposal is important so students build their own parameters and plan to follow.