Turning a Teachable Moment into a Global Collaboration with Support from the HP Catalyst Initiative and ISTE

Posted by Leslie S. Conery, ISTE Deputy CEO

Our online journey exploring the ways that schools around the world–with support from the HP Catalyst Initiative in partnership with ISTE–are implementing creative approaches to STEM education to transform teaching and learning continues with a visit to Scofield Magnet School in Stamford, Connecticut.

Students arrive at Scofield Middle School expecting to be immersed in STEM education. However, just like their global partners in the HP Catalyst Initiative, teachers here are faced with the challenge of getting students excited about and engaged in learning.

What began as teachable moment when water quality issues arose in Stamford, Conn., has blossomed into a hands-on, inquiry-based learning opportunity that has connected students to the world beyond the classroom.

Three years ago, with the help of a 2009 HP Innovations in Education grant (now the HP Catalyst Grant Initiative), teachers and students began a project titled, “Assessing Water Quality: The Impact of Stamford’s History and Implications for Future Growth and Urban Planning.” Today, Scofield’s expanded project, “The Challenge of Water Quality: China and United States Sister Schools Seek Solutions Together,” has grown to include collaborations with students from their sister middle school at Shandon University in Jinan, China. Meanwhile, the number of Scofield students participating has more than tripled. Teachers have traveled to China to immerse the Jinan students in water- quality testing, and recently a group of students and teachers from Jinan traveled to Stamford to participate in the water-quality testing with their new friends at Scofield.

Launched as a STEM education project, the initiative now spans the Scofield curriculum and the Stamford community. In language arts and social studies, students read and respond to articles about water contamination in Stamford. In science, a representative from a water testing company spoke to the students about how testing is done and evaluated. The city engineer came in to speak about how water moves through their city, and students learned from a representative of the local historical society a bit about the history of Stamford and how the contamination might have occurred. Finally, students learned what concerned citizens can do to change the situation. In the words of one, “I never realized I could make a difference.”

Listen to the voices of the students in this video tell the story of how this project has engaged them in learning and changed their world view.

The project has achieved a state and national profile. In 2011, ISTE arranged for administrators from Stamford Public Schools to present the Water Quality Testing Project at a Congressional Briefing in Washington, D.C., and administrators met with Connecticut legislators to appeal for more support for STEM initiatives.

As a part of the project, one of the research questions the Scofield team is attempting to answer is, “Will educators be able to get more students interested in STEM+ education and careers by creating a water testing interdisciplinary unit that contains an international component, integrates all disciplines, and utilizes technology in new and exciting ways?” They believe the answer is “yes.”

Just like far to the east at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya, our first stop on this online adventure, and on our second stop, far to the south at Liceo Bicentenario Araucania, Cautin, Chile, the teachers at Scofield Middle School in Stamford, Conn., are discovering how technology integration can engage and motivate students in STEM subjects and across the curriculum.

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