When Rosa (one of my middle school students) tells me she wants to be a mobile applications graphic developer, I want to make sure I support her along with all of my students in being successful on that career path. STEM is buzzing in the world of education as teachers, administrators, and district leaders are actively seeking to make learning experiences integrated with domains that are flourishing in job markets: science, technology, engineering, and math.
What many do not realize is these exciting integrations have already been used for decades through Be GLAD® strategies. A Certified Be GLAD Teacher is on the path to transform their lessons into high level STEM lessons by implementing metacognition, collaboration, problem solving, and creativity as the main emphasis of learning.
We don’t just want our students to understand; we want them to invent new ways to think, process, and explain – with their own flair! A facilitating Be GLAD teacher prompts students to think about their thinking to develop deep analysis and be critical of solutions while expanding options. This is the path to innovation, outside the box thinking.
When studying about the rock cycle, it is not just “What did you learn?” but rather:
-How did you discover those ideas? And what uses or applications do those discoveries hold for us?
-What problems may occur with that solution? Are there ways to improve upon the weaknesses in that solution?
This allows students to contextualize skills too.
-Why would a geologist want to study rocks?
-What further research is required?
-What tools may need to be invented to conduct the research or apply new discoveries?
-How would you solve that problem?
My student Rosa, a student with Autism in a special day class, designs a video game during a Next Generation Science Standard (NGSS) aligned, Be GLAD Unit on the Cycling of Earth's Materials. She learned to read and write while learning 21st Century Skills and STEM concepts. With the help of a Be GLAD Certified Trainer, we created integrated units that included Common Core State Standards (CCSS) skills which were taught through the NGSS content (For K-5 materials, we use the Aspicio system).
We want students to be critical thinkers and be the problem solvers for the next millennia. Be GLAD structures and scaffolds instruction with an intentional and deliberate Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR) to ensure success for all levels.
During the ‘They do’ of GRR, collaboration allows students to build confidence in their ability to share, process, and expand upon great ideas, because what modern job doesn’t require effective collaboration? With our T-Graph Strategy for instance, students are taught explicitly how to create their own resource to support their team’s work effectively. This gives students an embedded opportunity to learn social skills and tools to work with others while working on STEM, NGSS, and CCSS. It provides our students with a meaningful and engaging way to learn socioemotional skills.
In the same way, when students process in their Learning Logs, we teach there is no right or wrong way. There is only more effective and less effective; it is a spectrum. We want students to use their metacognition (reflecting on their own thinking) to come up with creative solutions for remembering knowledge. By providing multiple mnemonic devices on how to improve their own memory, our students learn which devices improve their memory the most. We focus on getting them to remember the best ways to remember.
It leaves endless possibilities for Rosa to think like a mathematician to design and engineer a mobile application or experiment like scientists to virtually craft a model of its graphics on a screen.
Our students are well prepared to display their works at makers-fairs and enthusiastically share their journeys of discovery.
Written by: Maimona Berta, Special Education (SPEDucator) and Science, STEM Teacher and Certified Be GLAD Teacher
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