Schools are putting more emphasis on STEM education, but that does not mean they are leaving the liberal arts or interpersonal skills behind.

Becky Griffith is an instructor at Northern Illinois University’s digital convergence lab. She runs a video game coding camp for elementary and middle school girls. The camp draws on many different skills, such as design, art and coding. It also introduces Amelia and others to concepts like revising code. Activities like this camp show how different elements interact, and how to apply different areas of knowledge. But now teachers are also emphasizing skills that one would regularly use in a professional setting.

In the coding camp, for example, group work is a common sight. It also extends into the school year. Dr. Heather Psaltis is the Special Programs Director at Rockford Public Schools. Her purview includes the system’s STEAM Academy, with the A standing for “arts.”

“It’s all very collaborative, so working with others, having to compromise and collaborate – having to communicate what you really want and really need in order to get the job done and deliver what your initial idea is – those are all the soft skills that start, I think, with a STEAM focus,” she said. “That’s the lens.”

Diversity programs are shifting their focus from just providing academic support to creating a learning environment that is more inclusive of people of different backgrounds. Promote inclusivity in STEM education – recognize the significance of small moments, get personal, seek training and get others on board.

Professionals will learn how to meet the need of school-age youth in age-appropriate ways — including building awareness, offering opportunities, and formal career preparation programs. Professionals will learn also how to find career resources, plan lessons, communicate with families, and partner with community organizations.

Summer programs that focus on academics, often geared toward underperforming students, draw little interest from parents and students, and therefore low enrollment and attendance, says a new report-slash-toolkit on summer literacy programs from EAB, an education research and consulting group.

Rebranding these programs, from summer school to summer camp, the report found, could help them attract more students. Some districts Maria Wahlstrom, an EAB consultant, spoke with saw boosts in engagement by adopting classic summer camp vibes, starting with the nomenclature. “The districts that did transform their summer programs into more fun-like summer camps actually saw a huge increase in the enrollment of kids, getting them super excited,” Wahlstrom says.

There is no perfect educator out there. Everyone has flaws. Everyone has biases, learned over time from the people we are surrounded by and from our experiences. Biases can slip into your decision making in the classroom or into the culture of your building (if you are an administrator).

You can begin confronting your bias by reflecting on your actions as an educator. Ask yourself: What happens when a Black or Latino male student doesn’t exemplify characteristics of what I deem a “good” student? How is he being treated by me and my colleagues? Where do I see him going in the future? How empathetic am I to his needs? How much confidence do I have that he can be a great student?

Having empathy will give you what it takes to turn any student around. Are you that one caring adult that your students need to hear from daily? Are you speaking success into your Black and Latino male students? Claim your students as your success stories and they will never forget it or you. Treat them like they are yours and they will follow you and believe in you.

What perfect timing! On the heels of Remake Learning Days comes an exciting announcement. Inspired in part by all those fab labs, robotics and creative sessions, 12 Pittsburgh programs have been selected to present their inventive ideas at the annual HundrED Innovative Summit in Finland.

Pittsburgh is the first US city invited to introduce education innovation by the global non-profit HundrED, which seeks out and shares inspiring ideas in K-12 education to an international audience. HundrED plans to document the programs this summer in preparation of the summit this fall.

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