Floyd County Schools teamed up with a Hardin County organization this week to encourage girls to seek careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills, and officials say preparation for the camp also served as professional development for teachers.
The camp, hosted Monday and Tuesday at the former Allen Central High School, offered STEM activities for female students in the school district, but it also required teachers to spend part of their summer break undergoing training about how they can provide STEM education while teaching any subject.
“Our organization exists to provide opportunities for girls to explore Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and to really just develop and empower them to become leaders and world changers,” said Brooke Whitlow of Shattered Glass.
The organization started in central Kentucky about three years ago, Whitlow said, and this camp marked the first visit to Floyd County.
The camp was offered through federal funding geared to offer STEM education to under-served communities. It featured activities with robots, computers and other STEM skills.
“It’s just a way to really help school districts spend that federal money in a really innovative way to provide opportunities to really begin to empower the girls in their community,” Whitlow said.
Teachers from all Floyd County schools spent weeks training to host this camp.
“Each station has a teacher from a different school in the district,” Whitlow said. “We have worked with those teachers over the past four weeks, digitally, to help them sort of re-think the way that STEM is integrated into their regular content.”
She said her organization learned that teachers don’t often know how to integrate STEM skills into other subjects, so Shattered Glass started offering professional development to give them ways to accomplish that.
“That is the goal, is for us to not only empower our girls in Floyd County, but to empower our teachers to rethink and re-imagine what their classroom instruction looks like,” Whitlock said.
Denise Isaac, the district’s chief information officer, said teachers who trained to be STEM leaders at this camp will provide instruction to other Floyd County teachers.
“My focus is instruction with my teachers and we’re wanting to implement these STEM activities in all content areas,” Isaac said. “We’re getting the STEM bus, so we want everybody to know that STEM is not just for science and math teachers. You can integrate this into all content areas. That’s going to be our focus this year with the STEM bus.”
The Floyd County Board of Education approved a bid to modify an existing school bus into a STEM bus in May, with officials reporting at the meeting that the $200,000 project would include $75,000 worth of STEM equipment on the bus.
Isaac said the STEM bus is expected to be available for tours at the Mountain Arts Center on Aug. 5, when the school district hosts an opening day event for personnel. It will be rotated to district schools and the STEM leaders will oversee the scheduling of the bus at each school.
“We’re super excited,” Isaacs said. “We’ve got principals here. I’ve got principals who have not been on board here today looking to make sure they have kids here. I’m telling you, it’s a big movement, and I think we’re making real progress.”
South Floyd student Chloe Hall said she signed up for the camp because she loves science and technology. At the camp, she helped program Ozobots, a small robot that teaches students how to write code with colored markers.
When asked if writing code is difficult, Hall said, “Not really.”
She laughed. “It just doesn’t cooperate with me sometimes, but, really, technology never does,” she said.