SPARK-STEM – Sparking a Sense of Wonder in Mathematics and Science

Andrew Gilbert of George Mason University
Jenn Suh of George Mason University

The project goals for SPARK STEM is to develop and deliver an integrated STEM PBL Professional development for upper elementary/middle grades(4-6).  “Ambitious teaching” which describes “teaching that aims to teach all kinds of students to not only know academic subjects, but also to be able to use what they know in working on authentic problems in academic domains” (Lampert, Boerst, Graziani 2011, p. 1) Yet, this type of teaching is quite challenging because it is not the norm in our schools and requires extensive integrative STEM knowledge for teaching. Similarly, learning to teach math and science has additional demands due to the  conceptual and procedural difficulties that math and science presents, particularly for teachers who usually have less than positive experiences and attitudes towards these subjects. By designing a summer institute that has a SPARK STEM lab, teachers will be able to have some “pictures of practice” of what we mean by ambitious teaching. In addition, the SPARK STEM summer labs will be video tapes to serve as exemplars of ambitious teaching using STEM PBL.