A week before the school year started, Kristy Wall moved from Pennsylvania to Sarasota to begin teaching at Wilkinson Elementary School, a Title I school. She would teach Makerspace, engaging students to create and problem solve while being steeped in STEM education.
Teaching in a new school and a new town, Wall wanted to engage with the community and other educators, and she found an opportunity in a STEM-related Education Roundtable Talk hosted by the Education Foundation on Saturday, November 4. Each year, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County hosts these talks, which are held at its community resource center, LaunchPad4U, and which bring together teachers from across the county to learn from guest speakers, network, and grow.
This talk featured Deshjuana “Desh” Bagley, the director of the Coding Academy at State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota and the program delivery partner for FIRST® Robotics. She discussed her role and her work and then shared ways that teachers can incorporate STEM into classroom instruction. She also shared ways that teachers can get involved with State College of Florida over the summer to engage students in STEM or to get more training.
Throughout the talk, the17 teachers in attendance shared and collaborated. They participated in hands-on learning and worked in smaller breakout groups, gaining practical strategies for fueling a love of STEM in the classroom.
“It’s rare to find professional development where every activity felt beneficial,” Wall said. She learned about curriculum created by developers of the video game Minecraft to engage students in STEM. Even an activity about creating paper circuits, something Wall has done frequently, included a new twist, one that she plans to employ in the classroom. “Everything,” Wall reiterated, “was worthwhile.”
Each teacher attending the talk received a $50 stipend for participating. And one lucky teacher—Kristy Wall!—won a $250 mini teacher grant. The grant couldn’t have come at a better time, as she’s setting up her new makerspace.
With the grant, she bought circuits, LED lights, and other materials so that all 400 students she teaches could design and build their own circuit bug and take it home with them. The kids loved creating these bugs, and Wall was so glad they could take home a small symbol of the joy of creating—and applying STEM education.