#NSTA17: The Importance of the Collaborative Community

This is an interesting and challenging time to be a science, engineering and/or STEM educator. Time, funding, support….all play into a complicated dance of priorities and resources. This is EXACTLY why the collaboration that happens at events like #NSTA is important to our students, teachers, administrators and the community at large. My biggest takeaway from NSTA is the collaboration it inspires is absolutely critical to increasing the scientific, engineering and technological literacy of our nation.

The most striking aspect of NSTA17 for me this week was the absolute focus on and prioritization of collaboration, among all of us. As I listened to teachers present classroom lessons, or exhibitors promote their products, or agencies and non-profits share a dizzying array of excellent resources, I in turn watched educators of all varieties engage, question, learn and share. One of my favorite sessions was one on Engineering and Literacy featuring PictureStem, a National Science Foundation funded project led by Dr. Tamara Moore of Purdue and Dr. Kristina Tank of Iowa State University. Tamara presented a series of lessons for early elementary grades that combined literacy through the use of common trade fiction and non-fiction books with age appropriate engineering activities utilizing the science, math, ELA and social studies aspects of those books. The 70ish teachers at the session eagerly participated in the hands on activities, asking questions and adding suggestions as they went. At the end, Tamara showed them where they could download the no-cost curricula. In this room, with these educators, policy issues, funding challenges, class size concerns and everything else simply faded as they all collaborated to learn new and effective engineering activities to take to their students.

Later, I took part in an engineering themed session aimed at K-3 called “Farm to Kitchen”. Two educators from the San Diego area shared the work they’ve collaborated on to help their young students understand “What is our place on the planet and where do the resources we use come from?” The question is what drew me to the session—after all we are talking about young children and that’s a BIG question. Their enthusiasm was contagious, my team fun and the projects well designed. And when I left, I was confident that these results of their collaboration would now be implemented and improved upon and positively impact many more children.

Teachers are in the trenches—it’s not uncommon that the whole day can go by without time even to do more than give cursory attention to personal needs. Collaboration is something “everyone knows” is good, but honestly the time to do it is rare. That’s why conferences like NSTA are so critically important.  It’s a time to learn, share, get ideas, network and yes, to collaborate. NSTA supporting me to blog at this conference exemplifies the spirit of collaboration so critical to our nation. As an engineering educator, I look forward to finding more ways to work with my science education colleagues and experts. If you have ideas and are interested in collaborating, please contact me at Elizabeth.parry.consulting@gmail.com or @STEMninjaneer. Liz Parry

Author Liz Parry is a guest blogger for NSTA for the 2017 National Conference; follow Liz on Twitter @STEMninjaneer

More About the 2017 National Conference on Science Education 

Browse the program preview, or check out more sessions and other events with the LA Session Browser/Personal Scheduler. Follow all our conference tweets using #NSTA17, and if you tweet, please feel free to tag us @NSTA so we see it!

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

Future NSTA Conferences

2017 STEM Forum & Expo
Kissimmee/Orlando, July 12–14

2017 Area Conferences

Baltimore, October 5–7
Milwaukee, November 9–11
New Orleans, Nov. 30–Dec. 2

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