In December 2015 Silicon Valley Innovation Center has organized another educational program - 10 STEM teachers from Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools (Kazakhstan) participated in a one week immersion course in Silicon Valley and learned about innovation and best practices in teaching STEM subjects in high school. Together with Silicon Valley STEM educators and experts in high school curriculum, standards, program evaluation and professional development the group explored the pros and cons of new approaches to advancing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math pedagogy as a response to the new global demands of K12 and higher education in the 21st century.
The participants had a chance to learn about most recent programs that use the integrated approach to teaching STEM subjects in high school, such as ROCK Program at Sir Francis Drake High School, NOVAS program powered by UC Berkeley's Space Sciences Lab and NASA, and some outstanding curricula developed for high schoolers by Freedom Cheteni (Mr. Free), STEM teacher at Mountain View Los Altos High School Foundation.
Teaching integrated STEM has sparked a lot of debate and interest not least due to all the complexity of both creating such programs for high school (vs. middle school) and integrating them into curricula that, to a large part, still have to align with national standards. One school that seems to be doing it with ease while demonstrating high academic achievements is the famous Silicon Valley's Nueva School. Visiting the school and sharing ideas with teachers and students was one of the highlights of the program and undoubtedly provided a clearer understanding of the real world applicability of integrated STEM teaching and learning.
Some other thought-provoking experiences included a visit to Stanford's Engineering Quad and a meeting with The Exploratorium's Teacher Institute's team for a discussion about its "Science Snacks" methodology and work with educators worldwide.
Two very hands-on sessions, on cutting-edge educational technology with Roni Habib of The Gunn High School and design thinking in teaching STEM with Roni and Reinhold Steinbeck of Stanford and IntoActions, allowed the NIS teachers to sink their teeth into some interdisciplinary team work and project-based learning.