New York, NY — About a dozen New York City teachers worked together recently to build wooden structures used to fling balls of wadded paper across a classroom. They weren’t developing new ways to frustrate janitors, the group was learning new ways to create accessible lessons in the areas of Science, technology engineering and Math (STEM).
The activity came on the final day of a five-day, grant-funded STEM training delivered by Teq. The structures, known as trebuchets, date back to the middle ages and have seen a resurgence of late at fall festivals where leftover pumpkins are hurled into the air. In this case they were made from normal household items.
“I’ve taken a lot from this,” said science enrichment teacher Amelia Mack of PS 11 in Queens. “We’re having fun and at the same time learning. I think that’s what students need.”
Teq Curriculum & Professional Development Mentor Andrew Grefig says the training is a mix of pedagogy and content, which he says is important, especially in STEM training.
“This does the pedagogy and the content knowledge in a fun way where teachers get to do a whole lot of hands-on activities,” he said. “We tried to find things we thought teachers would genuinely enjoy doing. We hope they take these projects back to their school, because we think that they’re quite valuable.”
It’s the third year Teq has worked with this group of teachers from Queens and Brooklyn. The first year involved certification for interactive white boards and over time content related to STEM was introduced.
“We’ve really gotten to see them develop various skills,” Grefig said. “They like coming and we like having people who are excited to be here. It certainly makes your job a whole lot more fun when your participants are truly interested.”
Claudette Oliveras, a teacher at PS 199 in Long Island City said she particularly enjoyed learning about the Fibonacci numbers, a special sequence of numbers found in nature, like in the fruit sprouts of a pineapple and the arrangement of a pine cone.
“I enjoyed brainstorming and collaborating with my colleagues to design creative and interactive lessons which can ultimately be shared with our students,” Oliveras said. “Participating in this professional development made me rethink my approach to teaching and was a reminder that there is always a new way to motivate the students. I have learned how to be more effective as a teacher in a one-computer classroom and how to be able to reach students of all abilities with different learning styles when implementing these new techniques.”