School of Education assistant professor co-hosts workshop for interdisciplinary STEM education

October 18, 2016

Interdisciplinary STEM workshop participants

Recently, Andrea Weinberg, an assistant professor in Colorado State University's School of Education, co-hosted a three-day workshop with Laura Sample-McMeeking, associate director of CSU's STEM Center, and Margaret Cozzens, a professor of mathematics at Rutgers University. The "PK-12 Education for the Planet Earth of Tomorrow" workshop was funded by the National Science Foundation, and presented under the auspices of the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS) at Rutgers University, Special Program: Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013+.

The aim of the workshop was to foster collaboration among individuals interested in interdisciplinary STEM education. The broad disciplinary focus was the Management of Natural Resources, which includes challenges affecting food supplies, forests, and water. "Many challenges cross the applied areas of water, forests, and food, and these areas, in turn, overlap each other," says Weinberg. "These challenges involve complex adaptive systems that interconnect natural systems with human ones, thus calling for interdisciplinary approaches to education."

Attendees included local classroom teachers and faculty members from school's Center for Educator Preparation, as well as disciplinary scientists or mathematicians engaged in education and outreach initiatives from across the country, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Montana, New Jersey, and Utah.

Largely participatory in nature, the workshop encouraged open dialogue about how to facilitate collaboration and engagement among PK-12 educators, teacher preparation faculty, and STEM faculty in order to enhance and promote interdisciplinary PK-20 STEM education. Sessions included a presentation by Cozzens providing context and connecting the current workshop to the larger MPE 2013+ initiative; dialogue about the definition and nature of interdisciplinary education in various settings; and presentations from each of the participants, in which they described their current practices relative to interdisciplinary STEM education.

Participants appreciated the innovative interdisciplinary education initiatives and projects shared by keynote speakers John Howe, a School of Education graduate student and director of the STEM Institute at Preston Middle School, and Ian Fogarty, educator and co-director of the SHAD International Program in Canada. "I learned what it means to be interdisciplinary," one high school mathematics teacher shared. "I thought applications were enough. I also learned more about what inquiry- and discovery-based learning are."

"This was a highly successful workshop," says Weinberg. "Participants are committed to continuing their engagement with one another and this effort, as evidenced by the ongoing communication via email and continued uploading of materials onto the Google Drive folder by participants." Weinberg and Sample-McMeeking have a number of follow-up activities planned, including:

  • Revising the dissemination materials
  • Distributing the dissemination materials to identified stakeholders
  • Scheduling follow-up sessions with each participant to discuss progress toward goals established on individual action plans
The team will also begin preparing a proposal for a follow-up workshop, planned for Spring/Summer 2017.

Contact:  Melissa Pickett

Telephone:  (970) 491-3167