According to the National Science Foundation, by 2020, there will be a significant shortage of teachers in the US. Most of these needs are in special education and in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). In order to encourage LSC students to meet this national and state needs, our AAT department has taken the initiative to incorporate STEM concepts within our curriculum. Here are three ways we accomplish this vision with the collaboration of the Children’s Department and Math Department:
Our AAT students enroll in MATH 1350 and 1351 (Foundations of Math I and II respectively) for the AAT degree. Sharon Stefan, a mathematics professor who teaches these courses, developed a program for her students to teach math concepts to children through use of games and manipulatives. Not only does Professor Stefan teach her students these foundational math concepts, but she teaches her students how to develop pedagogy for these concepts, utilizing the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) that are used to develop curriculum in our Texas public schools. Toward the end of the semester, her students showcased their projects through a community event called “Math Games.” The programs have been offered for three years and each year they have been an incredible success. The program will continue due to community request for more programs. Over 450 children have participated in “Math Games” since its inception.
Professor Shamim Arastu teaches both EDUC 1301 and EDUC 2301 and has implemented STEMtastic Stations as a part of the course curriculum. In these courses, students develop detailed lesson plans using BOPPPS template and align learning objectives for the activities with TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). Students use Blooms Taxonomy to develop questions to probe the children to think and process using low and higher order thinking skills. They hosted an event through our children’s library and again these events became an enormous success and were well received by the community. In addition, students developed station activities for REACH Unlimited, an organization that fosters and supports adults with Intellectual disabilities. Through our STEM events, our department received a mini-grant of $2000 to buy science equipment for future events. This spring Professor Arastu’s students used the newly purchased equipment for another successful STEMtastic Stations event.
Professor Fay Lee developed a literacy event involving “Read Across America” in collaboration with the children’s library. We believe that STEM concepts do not need to be separated by subject areas. We can teach these fields utilizing an interdisciplinary approach. Therefore, we focused the reading program with STEM related topics. Our EDUC 1301: Introduction to the Teaching Profession students were given a semester long project to prepare lessons for this literacy event. Students learned how to develop lessons using TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills), teach the material to community children and modify lessons according to children’s needs. Our LSC students have grown tremendously in only one semester by being immersed in these early clinical teaching experiences.
The Paraprofessional Cohort provides a pathway to an Educator Preparation Program. Incorporating paraeducators’ valuable work experiences into the EDUC 1301 and EDUC 2301 courses creates a distinctive, hands-on learning environment. These unique courses are especially designed to meet the needs of paraprofessionals. Not only are pedagogy and educational philosophies taught, but paraprofessionals learn more about independent school district policies which prepare them effectively for future interviews. With rich discussions, special speakers and collaborative projects, paraeducators are fully prepared to transfer to a university program where they can reach their goals of becoming a Texas certified teacher.