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PRISM Summer Program Gives Educators New Ideas to Expand Youth's STEM Interests

Monday, June 15, 2015
John Aidoo Bridge Testing

Building Bridges: Civil engineering professor John Aidoo (left) prepares to test bridges designed and constructed by Vigo County School Corporation teachers during the PRISM program's summer continuing education workshop. (Photo by Ryan Smith)

Vigo County mathematics and science educators found themselves back in the classroom this summer, this time as the students, as they learned lessons in Rose-Hulman's Portal Resource for Indiana Science and Mathematics (PRISM) to stimulate youth's interests in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) career fields.

The three-week program (June 8-26) featured lectures and hands-on activities led by Associate Professor of Civil Engineering John Aidoo, PhD, on earthquake engineering; Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Ed Mottel, PhD, on the properties of matter; and Professor of Biology and Biomedical Engineering, on the structure of DNA.

Teachers also toured Rose-Hulman Ventures, with Vice President for Rose-Hulman Ventures Elizabeth Hagerman, PhD; and the institute's Micro-Nano Device and Systems (MiNDS) Laboratory, with Associate Dean of Faculty Azad Siahmakoun, PhD; and participated in a robotics workshop, with David Mutchler, PhD, professor of computer science and software engineering.

The sessions gave educators more in-depth knowledge in specific content areas to enhance their classroom lessons. Additional sessions covered continuing education teaching techniques.

Woodrow Wilson Middle School science teacher Shirley Ackman was among dozens of middle-school teachers taking part in the workshop. She says that while educators do ongoing professional development throughout each school year, the PRISM summer program provides intensive workshops that specifically focus on content relevant to state curriculum standards.

"The content is geared toward our curriculum, and we get ideas for lesson plans, both from the activities we do together and those taught by the Rose-Hulman professors," she adds.

Special session instructors included Honey Creek Middle School math teacher Bob Fischer, a former All-USA Teacher Team Award Winner, and Vigo County School Corporation (VCSC) Math Liaison Janice Kluesner. The duo emphasized enhancing student engagement by incorporating hands-on activities.

For instance, Kluesner advised that students can better learn the concept of volume by through measuring exercises. "Let them find out what volume means by filling something up," she told the teachers.

There were also suggestions for ways teachers can adapt classroom content to match a range of student ability.

The PRISM summer program is part of a multiyear partnership between Rose-Hulman and VCSC, with assistance from a $550,000 Math Science Partnership-Program grant from the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE), to provide professional development for middle-school math and science teachers. This year's effort was expanded to include fourth- and fifth-grade teachers.

VCSC Assistant Superintendent Karen Goeller says, "I cannot emphasize enough how grateful we are to have the high quality and engaging STEM professional development presented by Dr. Carlson, other Rose-Hulman professors, and the PRISM staff."

PRISM provides free digital resources and professional development workshops to middle-school teachers in STEM areas (science, technology, engineering, and math). This the fourth IDOE partnership grant during the past six years supporting the Rose-Hulman and VCSC educational collaboration.