Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy teachers have many opportunities to attend conferences in Florida and nationwide. These enriching experiences give teachers fresh classroom ideas for instruction and lesson activities. Mrs. Stephanie Boates, our sixth grade science teacher, attended the Florida Association of Science Teachers (FAST) conference in Miami, Florida. Mrs. Boates enthusiastically returned to her sixth grade science students with a wealth of information.
Mrs. Boates commented, “I am always amazed at what teachers create and are willing to share with their colleagues and this conference was no exception. My only wish is to have two-hour science classes, so that I could pass this new knowledge on to my students.”
The FAST Conference
The conference began Thursday evening with a tour of the Fairchild Botanic Gardens in Coral Gables. This 83 acre garden was full of incredibly beautiful plants and even had an indoor butterfly garden. Fairchild hosts school and youth programs and also has science labs for graduate studies on their premises; their website alone is full of downloadable lesson plans for the science teacher. On Friday and Saturday, I attended classes on Science Olympiad, simplifying science fair projects, solar ovens, engineering and design, TedTalks, and FOSS (Full Option Science System) notebooks.
The Science Olympiad is a competition hosted by the University of Central Florida for students in grades 6-12. Division B is for students in grades 6-9 and consists of a team of fifteen students. The students break up into teams of two and compete in a variety of events based on engineering and design. The focus of the day is on teamwork and problem solving. This is a regional competition and winners move on to a national competition. For more information you can visit www.floridascienceolympiad.org.
The solar oven session was led by two employees of the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) which is located on the UCF campus in Cocoa; the FSEC is actually a research institution of UCF. I was excited to learn that the FSEC hosts a solar energy cook-off each year. The event is for students in grades 4-12 and takes place this school year on May 3, 2014. Students work in teams of two to six students and each school may send up to three teams. The students construct their solar ovens and then cook an original meal for the judges. The presenters at the conference shared numerous pictures and the kids looked like they were having a great time. I plan to encourage my sixth graders to participate this year.
A main focus of mine in attending this conference was to learn how to incorporate the “E” in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) into my science classroom. I attended three sessions on engineering and design and left feeling more comfortable with the concept and confident that I could relate it to the FOSS curriculum that we use at the Lower School. When I saw how excited teachers were getting when they got to “play” an engineer, I knew that my students would be equally excited. It is far more interesting to learn about wind, force, and aerodynamics by designing a vehicle with given materials that has to travel a given distance than just reading about it in a textbook. What I love most about the concept of engineering is that it teaches students that failure is okay and that it just means you need to take what you learned and go back and redesign. This concept is difficult for many of our students who feel the pressure to succeed the first time, every time.
I cannot recommend this conference enough to my fellow colleagues. I encourage you to take as many opportunities for professional development as possible. Next year, the FAST conference will be held in Orlando and I encourage all science teachers to attend even if it is only for one day. I also invite any science teachers to contact me if they would like to put together a team for the Science Olympiad; I would love for Holy Trinity to be represented at this event.