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Second week of STEM course. Do you want to know what happened?

March 22, 2017
"No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong."
Albert Einstein

Sunday started with a Visit to the Center of Excellence through education in Jerusalem, we were received by Dr Dorit Neria National Director of the Mathematics department for elementary schools at the Ministry of Education and Dr. Avi Poleg Director of the excellence center “Israel Arts and Science Academy” at the schusterman campus. This private institution is run by an NGO as a boarding school for students “who want to achieve excellence” from all over the country in a global context in science and arts.

The professional visit started with an activity by Dr. Poleg as an interactive memory game of an adventure story involving participants and 3 different levels of difficulty, the first two were easily passed by common memory or simple association, but the last one involved 17 numbers and 2 images. For the successful resolution of the last part, the ability of setting a mathematical pattern was necessary to get every number right, thus introducing the concept of arithmetic series, logical thinking with Dr. Poleg monitoring the process as a facilitator. A discussion was held around the conclusion that implementing such methods would bring as benefits, being able to apply it in a variety of different subjects and being able to engage efficiently with students. 

In the second part of the visit, Dr. Dorit´s presentation gave us an insight about Supervision of mathematics teaching in primary schools from the perspective of the ministry of education. Her goal is to make students love mathematics, using technology “as an aid and not as an aim” and integrating mathematics into other subjects. The intention of developing four levels of mathematical thinking in students (Knowledge of concepts, Algorithmic thinking, Relational thinking, Open Search justification) and the use of national examinations as a feedback to teachers, so they can know what are the strong and weak points on their teachings.  We also learned about the importance of math knowledge in teachers in elementary classes and the struggle it represents to have qualified teachers in primary schools. This makes professional development a priority for the ministry of education. The visit ended with a tour through the school grounds, labs and workshops.

The afternoon workshop by XLN (NGO in training) was a maker´s workshop, an activity executed in three different groups with a set of given instructions and an hour to carry them out. We had fun building the Goldberg machine with the materials given to us and discovered a new way to teach differently science. Focused on game learning and PBL (project based learning) we can teach more than the subject at hand but also important skills like critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, creative thinking and trial/error in a fun way. PBL also helps define the teacher´s role as a facilitator and mentor.   

On Monday we visited the ORT center at Bat Yam were we were received by Einat Shami iSTEAM coordinator at the center. A variety of competitive activities involving teamwork with participants of the Mashav training course were used to demonstrate how using common materials in simple challenges was involved in engaging students and stimulating creativity. The installations at the ORT center are well equipped so students can develop in computer science, electronics, robotics and graphical design. And they are also a professional development center since the staff are well aware of the importance of having teachers capable of implementing STEM and iSTEAM practices.

The afternoon STEM by PBL workshop by Adi Shmorak of robotic granted us with the opportunity to explore the CoderZ STEM tool. A useful tool to teach students the skills englobed in robotics such as programming, critical thinking and problem resolution in a user friendly block programming interface. This could be used as a powerful tool also in other subjects like physics and especially in mathematics where students can learn about the practical application of different concepts including calculus.

The workshop was complimented by the presentation of Intelitek STEM program that showed us the importance of understanding  that intelligence can be modified regardless of each individual's context and how hard it is to train educators to teach STEM, which represents the biggest challenge today, both pillars are necessary for the  holistic and successful implementation of STEM preferably from a young age to students. 

A day packed with activities and new knowledge, in which our motivation and dreams to apply everything we had learned to our countries was nurtured and had grown in a spectacular manner, couldn’t had a better closing that a cultural night. A night full of music, dancing, games, and sharing with people from all over the world!    

Nigist, Yawalak, Luxmi and Sergio