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Ontario teachers go FULL STE(A)M AHEAD into STEM education with k2i academy

In August, 30 elementary and secondary teachers from across Ontario converged at York University for the FULL STE(A)M AHEAD – Inclusive, Innovative & Interactive Teaching and Learning about STEM mini-conference. Hosted by the Lassonde School of Engineering’s kindergarten to industry (k2i) academy and the Ontario Teacher’s Federation (OTF), the free program offered teachers the opportunity for hands-on, interactive learning from the k2i academy team along with guest presenters Dr. Solomon Boakye-Yiadom, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering at Lassonde, and Moses Velasco, Director of Learning Programs, Ontario Science Centre.

“Collaborating together with partners to dismantle systemic barriers to opportunities in STEM is a key part of our mission at Lassonde,” says Jane Goodyer, dean of the Lassonde School of Engineering. “The meaningful work that we do would not be possible without strong partnerships, they help us make a positive impact and create positive change.”

teachers enjoying collaboration activity at k2i STEM workshop

“OTF was thrilled to partner with the k2i academy to create an exciting learning opportunity for teachers in the summer of 2022,” says Nathan Cole, President of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation. “Our members who participated in this immersive and experiential learning session told us that they felt inspired by what they learned and were excited to apply their learning to their teaching and assessment practices.”

The program highlighted the importance of STEM literacies and skills in today’s technology-integrated world, emphasizing the crucial role that teachers play in ensuring there are equitable opportunities for STEM learning in their classrooms. Teachers had the opportunity to share their expertise and network with fellow educators from across Ontario. They also engaged with the k2i academy student mentors (undergraduate students). The mentors shared some of their own student experiences, highlighting the barriers they faced when pursuing STEM education, giving the teachers valuable insights from the student perspective that they could take back to their classrooms.

“I hope that each teacher has learned more about how early education influences students’ success and experiences in post-secondary,” says Jessica Moosaie, k2i student mentor. “By making K-12 education more inclusive and interdisciplinary, I believe students will have an easier transition into post-secondary education.”

“I learned that no matter where you might be in your career as an educator, it is a field which demands life-long learning,” added Samantha Dungca, k2i student mentor. “I witnessed that sometimes it takes a bit of un-learning to eliminate the biases we may have in science and engineering to create accessible, inclusive lessons for the classroom.”

Teachers attended several workshops led by Vanessa Ironside, k2i academy program officer, to take part in hands-on STEM learning experiences. The workshops helped teachers strengthen their skills in topics such as engineering design, computational thinking and coding, and explored questions connected to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“It was exciting to finally be able to welcome teachers to Lassonde for in-person professional learning,” says Lisa Cole, director of programming at the k2i academy. “It’s important for us to work alongside our K to 12 education partners, such as the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, to co-create authentic, real-world connected learning opportunities that support the work of classroom teachers in Ontario.”

Workshops included:

  • Why Equity in STEM?
  • Introduction to Engineering Design, Design Thinking, and STEM Skills
  • Moving Towards Equity with STEM Skills in Curriculum
  • Integrating Computational Thinking and Electronics into your Classroom
  • From 2D to 3D! Learning about 3D modelling and exploring creativity!