3 takeaways from my STEM PD

A seasoned chemistry teacher picks up new skills that benefit himself as much as his students

2. I got a reminder of what it is like to be the student vs. the teacher
Atlantis Charter School places a strong emphasis on experiential and hands-on learning for our high school students. At the workshop, I experienced the benefits of this approach. We conducted six experiments from the lab activity book. We started each experiment from scratch, and by doing so we learned to set up and properly calibrate the equipment. If we ran into a problem, we learned how to troubleshoot. The repetition allowed us to see how the apparatus works and better understand what users can and cannot do. I left feeling very comfortable in my ability to work and troubleshoot the equipment, and the experience reinforced for me just how effective experiential learning can be.

3. I realized the benefits of collaboration
Not only was the lead instructor an amazing wealth of knowledge (he co-wrote the textbook), but so were my fellow teachers. I spent two days in a room with educators from other schools in New England and as far away as Tennessee and Georgia. We shared ideas and experiences and talked about the different approaches we use to teach our students ideas and concepts related to chemistry. We talked about what works in our classrooms and what doesn’t. The ability to collaborate with fellow chemistry teachers was just as beneficial as learning to use the new equipment. It is also what set the experience apart from PD days held on my school campus. I think we learned just as much from each other as we did from the instructor, and I hope to stay in touch with the teachers I met for years to come. In fact, I think it would be great to invite them to spend a day at my school and see my science lab!

Putting my new skills into place
I returned to school following the workshop better prepared to help my students understand this new green approach to chemistry. With everything in life, there is a learning curve, and it may take some time to integrate everything I learned into my lesson plan, but it was a good experience. The instructors gave me and my colleagues the tools we need to be successful in the classroom.

I am fortunate to teach at a high school where administrators see the value of PD. This opportunity was brought to me, but educators at my school are encouraged to seek out PD opportunities on their own.

Humans, particularly teachers, have an insatiable thirst for knowledge. As educators, we would be remiss if we did not actively seek out new learning opportunities. This STEM PD benefited me, but more importantly, it will benefit my students by helping Atlantis integrate new ideas and concepts into its science curriculum to better prepare our students for 21st-century jobs.

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