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Le Jardin Teacher Fired Up To Bring Kids To Science World

Brianna Roberts

Brianna Roberts

When the topic of education comes up, the word “STEM” gets tossed around, as it’s bringing a bigger emphasis to science, technology, engineering and math-related topics to the classroom. It’s a worldwide initiative, and it’s something Le Jardin Academy teacher Brianna Roberts knows well.

“We are losing so many jobs in the United States. People are not going into STEM education any more. A lot of students are really afraid of these careers,” Roberts said.

With these concerns in mind, Roberts participated in the Siemens STEM Institute in Washington, D.C., a gathering in August of 50 science teachers from around the nation to share STEM promotion strategies.

Roberts, who teaches junior and senior physics and environmental systems at the Kailua private school, stumbled upon the opportunity while browsing the Discovery Channel website earlier this year.

At the workshop, the fellows toured the Smithsonian and heard from a variety of speakers, including astrophysicist Hakeem M. Oluseyi, plus representatives from the White House and Discovery Channel. All of the speakers touched upon a common theme: While students are enthused about STEM subjects in elementary school, they shy away from it after sixth grade.

“(Educators) want to do something different about that and get students to enjoy science and see there’s an aspect in it that can be fun and interesting,” Roberts explained, “even if math is involved.”

It’s an attitude shift at its core, pushing teachers away from “talking at” students, and encouraging them instead to make the connections themselves. Roberts gave the example of how typical field trips to museums devolve into regurgitating information off display cards, when the focus should be on getting students to look at conceptual details to work out the real-life implications of exhibits.

In her classroom, Roberts likes to use a quiz game called Kahoot! She writes her own questions, and the entire class participates in answering them. The program allows Roberts to see, in real-time, how everyone is doing.

“It’s a fun game, and it gets them actively engaged — all the students, instead of just one or two students.”

Roberts will continue to stay in contact with her peers from the institute to exchange resources, and she hopes the lessons she has learned from the experience will help her students gain more confidence.

“What (the institute) was telling us, along with what we do already as educators, it’s really important for kids to try to bring in many aspects of science and technology education,” she said. “Let them bring you where they want to go, and maybe ask them more questions, instead of you as a teacher just telling them what to do.”