Geri Parscale

Geri Parscale spent 28 years in education and has worked as a classroom teacher, principal, professional development director, and finally deputy superintendent of Fort Leavenworth Schools, USD 207. Her mode of operation was always the same: learning for all kids.



There's been much discussion these days about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education and what it really means. In fact, you may have been a part of the discussion and are looking to infuse STEM in one way or another into your existing curriculum. Proponents argue that if we can increase math and science opportunities while infusing engineering and technology, it would expose students to the areas of STEM, and could tackle potential career deficits while preparing them for successful 21st Century careers.

As we take a critical look at this and acknowledge that teachers must improve their pedagogy of teaching STEM, there is a much needed shift that needs to be made, a transfer of attention if you will, if we are serious about putting the focus of schools and education where it needs to be. To have the commitment we need to help students to become future scientists, mathematicians, and great leaders, I contend that we must shift our paradigm from thinking in terms of STEM and begin acting as TEAMS.

STEM, at its minimum, means teaching four separate content areas: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Additionally, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced No Child Left Behind, includes language that ensures that states have an obligation to support an arts education program in public schools.  This federal education law includes the arts in its definition of a “well-rounded education.” With this support, and adding art to make STEAM, we schools could move the “S” from the beginning to the end of the word to discover the best approach to helping students learn at high level!

Building on the strong foundation of Professional Learning Communities (PLC) culture, we recognize that a piece-meal or patchwork approach does not work as we focus on learning for all students. We know that teamwork is important to both professional and student success. The iconic image of the lone scientist toiling in the lab has been replaced by the reality of highly functional teams communicating and collaborating in multiple venues to solve life’s big problems. Consider successes like the Mars Curiosity mission or the sequencing of the human genome; these projects had dozens, if not hundreds, of people involved.

In the TEAMS culture, we are not only including these very important components in our curriculum, but are also consistently and constantly sharing, working interdependently toward the common goal of student learning, and systematically providing support for all students in learning science, mastering technology, and demonstrating proficiency in engineering and math concepts. The TEAMS culture allows all teachers to stay focused on best practices, and through collaboration, gives teachers the vehicle in which to work together as we strive to meet the needs of all students. By teaching STEAM concepts and infusing this curriculum into a strong TEAMS culture in our schools and classrooms, teachers are able to focus on the four critical questions of a PLC and apply them to STEM:

1. What do we want our students to know and do in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math?

2. How will we know that the students have mastered these essential outcomes?

3. What are we going to do to intervene for the students who have not mastered these essentials in science, technology, engineering, and math?

4. How are we going to extend and enrich the learning for students who have already demonstrated mastery?

So, how about it? STEAM education...Great!!! But transform STEAM into TEAMS...Priceless!!

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