A room full of teachers huddled over small circuit boards plugged into their computers. They connected alligator clips to bananas. Once wired to the circuit board, the bananas transformed into musical keyboards. The Makey Makey workshop equipped the teachers, not only with their own circuit kit to use in their classroom but also with knowledge about how to use the technology to teach fifth-grade electricity standards.
The hands-on learning session was part of the fourth annual Cobb Schools STEMapalooza Conference at Kennesaw Mountain High School. More than 600 educators attended the educational event to get a jumpstart on incorporating science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) in classrooms, inside and outside of Cobb.
“Teachers from across the southeast gathered at Kennesaw Mountain High School to fill their teacher toolboxes with new STEM ideas. This year, STEMapalooza was sponsored by Lockheed Martin with a $50,000.00 grant. These funds made this event FREE for all teachers and provided them with access to cutting-edge professional learning opportunities and resources,” said Dr. Sally Creel, Cobb Schools Supervisor of STEM and Innovation.
There were sessions on everything from robots and fossils to 3D paint and weird science. In fact, educators could choose from more than 350 sessions during the 3-day event.
In the high school’s courtyard, teachers used portable weather stations to test the temperature and humidity. Mableton Elementary School’s Innovation Specialist, Alana Davis, demonstrated how the educators could connect the weather stations to teach science standards.
Another group of teachers pretended to be bats to see how the roleplay exercise could help their elementary students better understand the nocturnal creatures.
On Twitter, educators praised the STEM conference using the hashtag #STEMapalooza19 and #STEMapalooza.
“Learning about AR/VR and how to bring NASA in the classroom this morning,” tweeted Green Acres Elementary School Principal Ashley Mize. “This is the best learning conference I’ve been to this year!”
Several of the educational sessions outlined the process for schools to earn STEM or STEAM certification. Together, Cobb Schools have almost 50 STEM and STEAM certifications.
No Summer Vacation Today: Teachers Return to Classroom as Students
Some parents may wonder what teachers do during the summer. Do they toss their bags aside when school ends or are they already planning for the next school year? Look to the hundreds of educators at STEMapalooza for the answer.
Here’s what one teacher tweeted during the conference, “we voluntarily go to classes to bring new ideas into our lessons!”
To integrate STEM into their school, teachers experimented with drones and learned to speak their students’ language by attending the Minecraft Teacher Academy.
“AWESOME drone class with a free drone! Fun times are coming to my class,” Big Shanty Intermediate teacher Deanna Reynolds tweeted.
Before they turn the devices over to their students, the teachers tried 3D printing. They also brushed up on their coding skills and learned how to build a STEAM foundation using LEGOs.
For the less squeamish teachers, there were hands-on interactions with sheep brains and a rather friendly boa constrictor.
It could be because so many Cobb schools have earned STEM certification. Or, it could be that Cobb schools like Wheeler High School rank high nationally for their STEM programs. For so many reasons, educators from throughout the southeast look to Cobb as a STEM leader. That’s why they flock to Cobb’s annual STEM conference.
“I’m so excited to use some of the practices I learned today next school year,” praised one teacher from Fulton County, who thanked Cobb for opening the free conference to other districts.
In addition to all the STEM knowledge they gained, many of the educators also took home free technology to use in their classrooms. Some got drones. Others took home Makey Makey circuit kits, 3D pens, Georgia Power’s energy efficient kits, and more.
“This is the one conference I love attending every year. I always leave with new ideas to try. Winning prizes is a bonus,” said Bells Ferry Elementary School teacher, Megan Mullin.
The STEMapalooza conference is not the only way that the Cobb County School District is engaging teachers over the summer. Hundreds of educators also recently attended the annual Cobb InTech conference.