Teachers Learn How to Introduce the Field of Engineering to Students

Iowa State University’s Institute for Transportation partnered with the Iowa Department of Transportation in the summer of 2015 to lead three programs that introduced elementary and high school teachers as well as high school students to the field of engineering.

Jennifer Serra is a program assistant at the Institute for Transportation where she helped design the programs. Serra said the program helped teachers so they could actively engage their students in the STEM fields.

Twenty-four teachers participated in “Teaching in the Fast Lane Workshop for Elementary Teachers,” that featured STEM investigations into the best method for elementary school teachers to educate young students about science, math, and engineering concepts.

Leading faculty and graduate students made presentations about engineering in the workshop, hosted at ISU. One presenter was Lynne Bleeker, a consultant for Full Option Science System, a program that aims to make learning environments more active. She helped elementary school teachers design a curriculum that met national science and math standards.

The designed curriculum aims for a largely hands-on approach for the students, and the teachers underwent active participation and field trips during the educational program to prepare them to transfer these skills to their classrooms. The program also provided teachers with a modified version of the AASHTO RIDES “Roadways in Developing Elementary Students” kit, an educational outreach program targeting the STEM field.

A class of graduate students from ISU refined the kit to make it easier to use for teachers, including simplifying the instructions and modifying materials. The kit included a variety of ready-to-use supplies for implementation of newly learned activities in the classroom.

Serra said the program was an overwhelming success, and that all three of the programs will continue and expand next summer. “We received a lot of positive feedback from our participants!” Serra said. “So many people expressed interest in future programing options.”

All three programs will continue in the summer of 2016 and two programs are actually expanding. Transportation Institute for high school teachers is being offered as a three week course rather than one week, college credit is now given, and larger stipends are again being offered. Go! Further, a program for high school students, will expand to two sessions next summer.

Serra also offered advice for any other institution or organization that wanted to run a similar program. She said teamwork between different organizations has been key to improving and building the programs she works on.

“Look for groups that are already running successful programs and ask a lot of questions. If possible, team up with them or find other groups who have similar goals,” Serra said. “The InTrans partnership with the Center for Bio Renewable Chemicals at ISU has been priceless.

It’s a terrific partnership and we’ll both continue to grow.”

To learn more or to connect with the creators of this project, contact Jennifer Serra at jserra@iastate.edu.

This story is from our regular series of articles highlighting efforts being made here in the Midwest to address transportation workforce issues.
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