Summertime, and the (Teacher Learning) Is Easy

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And that’s a wrap!

The grades are in, the kids are out, and the building is strangely quiet. Another summer break has arrived, and adjusting to the new schedule and pace can be confusing for teachers as well as students and families.

Strategies for summer

One way to handle change is, well, not to change all that much. Continuing with learning activities is important for students, especially at-risk students, to forestall the notorious summer slide. For them, staying in touch with reading and math activities can be crucial for getting off to a good start when the next school year arrives.

For teachers, as well, learning opportunities abound. Looking across a range of platforms for summer STEM resources, we’ve located examples of video, audio, and text media that offer something sure to engage teachers of almost any particular STEM persuasion.

First steps

As with all journeys, a rich learning experience should start with a plan.

Anne Jolly, an animating presence at Middle Web, a blog for middle school teachers, has laid out a broad framework for teachers to start thinking about how to structure their summer learning journey. Her primer on summer learning for STEM teachers abounds with helpful tips and well vetted links to other, high-quality resources.

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Cut to the video

The Teaching Channel offers a vast library of rich video resources, in STEM or any other topic. This STEM playlist is a great place to start, while this larger collection of STEM resources offers options galore to home in on exactly the right option for almost any particular classroom need.

Specifically for engineering, Bill Hammack inspires wonder and excitement about feats of engineering in his video series, offered up under his “engineerguy” persona. For any educators who suspect there might be more to this engineering thing than they quite grasp, this is stop number 1 to 10, at least.

A stronger focus on engineering education is part of the LinkEngineering video conversation series put together by the National Academy of Engineering. Experts in K-12 engineering education go into great depth on these “webchats” about varied topics, with substantive, engaging guidance on how to teach engineering to different kinds of learners. Be prepared to take lots of notes.

Audio, if you prefer

Chris Woods, a Michigan math teacher, has developed a collection of podcasts full to bursting with STEM learning in his STEM Everyday podcast project. Over 120 episodes strong, Chris’s podcasts cover the entire STEM waterfront. Both accessible and substantive, the podcasts serve up fresh angles on all kinds of topic. Full disclosure: I’ve been a guest twice, and I can verify the commitment and intelligence that Chris brings to making STEM learning part of any teacher’s classroom efforts.

The K12 Engineering Education podcast offers a more engineering-focused take on what teachers can do with ideas like design, problem-solving, invention, and imagination. Guests come from inside and outside of education, and podcast host Pius Wong makes great use of his varied experiences as an educator and entrepreneur to lead discussions in often surprising, always interesting directions.

For a broader perspective via podcast on science content and learning, check in with Brains On. It offers kid-oriented podcasts — running 25 to 40 minutes ­— that cover topics ranging from unicorns to smelly feet to why we feel happy and/or sad.

Books, always books

Digital media can pose confounding challenges for kids’ learning and brain development. But they also hold out the promise of transformative, engaging learning experiences. A list of books on the topic from the education arm of Common Sense Media addresses the place of digital media in the classroom, and in students’ broader lives, from many different sides. Headlined by Affinity, a new book by Mimi Ito of Hanging Out fame, the list takes in topics that range from neuroscience to literacy to pedagogy to social justice.

For books to get kids themselves excited about STEM topics, check out the annual NSTA list of “Best STEM Books.” And be sure to check back in with our own list of engineering books for kids that can make summer reading a time of learning and exploration for all ages.

And, finally

With that we bring an end to our blog posts for this academic year. Look for a mid-summer update and then regular publication again once the new school year begins.

We hope the topics we’ve covered have led to insights and learning opportunities of some useful kind or another. With gratitude for all our readers’ attentions and good will, we wish a healthy, happy summer of just the right mix of learning and fun for all.


Eric Iversen is VP for Learning and Communications at Start Engineering. He has written and spoken widely on engineering education in the K-12 arena. You can write to him about this topic, especially when he gets stuff wrong, at eiversen@start-engineering.com

You can also follow along on Twitter @StartEnginNow.

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