This week, North Carolina students headed back to class, and their teachers were ready for them. Beyond arranging their rooms, hosting open houses and preparing lesson plans, teachers are seeking out the tech resources that will make their classroom an environment that is better able to equip students with 21st century skills.
Thanks to a partnership with the Kenan Fellows Program at North Carolina State University, two elementary school STEM educators spent this summer as interns at the Charlotte and Raleigh/Durham Google Fiber offices, experiencing what it’s like to work at a tech company and taking new ideas and experiences back to the classroom.
Michelle McElhiney, a 5th grade teacher at Oakhurst STEAM Academy in Charlotte, and Amelia Robinson, 3rd-grade math teacher at Envision Science Academy serving students in Raleigh and Wake Forest, both dedicated their summer to this project.
Their efforts resulted in two extensive STEM-focused projects, featuring new career-connected curricula and "STEAM To-Go" mobile learning labs or kits. The STEAM To-Go labs pair technology resources like Chromebooks, Makey Makeys, and stop-motion animation tools with lesson ideas and online resources for use in public school classrooms. There are two different mobile lab options. Teachers can choose between "Circuitry and Music" and "Animation and Coding." Each kit comes with a teacher’s guide that helps the teacher get up to speed on the technology, offers links to online tools and apps, makes recommendations for how teachers can connect the projects to state-mandated outcomes and "literacy links" so that they can enhance the grade-level goals in their classroom.
These Google Fiber funded kits are available at no cost to elementary and middle school teachers at the STEM and STEAM academies in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools starting in the fall of 2017. STEAM To-Go mobile labs, which include hardware and educator guides, can be borrowed by teachers for one week, allowing educators to integrate them into classroom activities, link them to literacy extensions and align them with grade level standards. The experiences are designed for kids who have little or no coding experience; educators can easily modify the program for students ranging from lower elementary to middle school.
To launch this project, Google Fiber hosted a back to school reception earlier this month at our Charlotte Google Fiber Space for teachers at STEM elementary and middle schools. More than 60 educators and administrators attended to learn about the STEAM To-Go mobile labs, have fun with hands-on STEM activities and celebrate the start of another school year together.
Stay tuned for more news about upcoming teacher leadership trainings in Raleigh and Durham. Let’s start the school year full STEAM ahead!
By Tia Bethea in Raleigh-Durham and Jess George in Charlotte, Google Fiber Community Impact Managers