7-12-2019 – Workshop connects businesses, educators

Posted on: July 12th, 2019 by admin

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July 12, 2019

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By Garrett Stell
gstell@newstopicnews.com

 

Jul 12, 2019 12:00 AM

 

As technology and a new generation of employees present businesses with new problems, a local professional development program is working to create ways for Caldwell County students to help find solutions.

 

“Filling the Gap: Project Based Learning” is a program sponsored by STEM West — the science, technology, engineering and math educational arm of the Western Piedmont Council of Governments — that brought together 14 teachers from Caldwell and Alexander Counties to take part in a week-long workshop alongside local businesses.

 

Over the course of this week, teachers and support staff members have taken tours of eight businesses and learned about problems that company leaders were facing. At Little Gunpowder Creek on Monday, Gina Barrier of the N.C. State University Science House oversaw demonstrations that tested the water quality and then helped teachers put together poster boards to educate the public.

 

Teachers also participated in other project-based learning exercises at different businesses throughout the week, and Barrier said that whichever company they decide to partner with, she will provide them with the equipment for the project at no cost.

 

STEM West Director Carol Moore, who partnered with Barrier to organize the workshops, said it is the goal of the project to send teachers back to their classrooms with steps in mind for how they can teach their students to help local businesses.

 

“I want teachers to go back with a unit plan,” Moore said. “The goal is to get kids doing real work. … Businesses will present teachers with real problems, and then students will work together to solve those problems.”

 

The program will culminate today with a meeting between representatives from the eight businesses and the teachers. The business leaders will discuss one specific problem that they are facing in their industry, and the teachers will then work with one of the companies during the fall semester.

 

The end product, Moore said, is that the problem will be solved by students. She said that the results of past years have shown her the benefits of bringing real-world problems to kids to solve.

 

Through interactions with local businesses, Moore hopes that her program will help students think about available careers right in their hometown.

 

“By getting the students to feel involved in helping businesses tackle something they are actually struggling with, it makes such a positive impact on them,” Moore said.

 

She referred to one middle school student who commented last year that it was the first time she felt like anyone had ever asked her what she thought. But even more telling, Moore said, was a student who was excited because they had “never been given a problem that didn’t have an answer.”

 

Each of the teachers will go home from the workshop with a $200 stipend, which Moore said is typically used towards getting the project with the partner business off the ground.

 

“Sometimes they will set up a field trip for students to go and hear directly from the business about their problem,” she said.

 

Once a plan is made, Barrier supplies the teachers will the equipment they need to complete their projects.

 

“Bringing the private and public sector together to help kids grow and learn is our goal,” Moore said.

 

Reporter Garrett Stell can be reached at 828-610-8723.

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