Juneau residents fill out a computer survey during a networking event for teachers and STEM community members at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. The SouthEast Exchange is a new collaboration started by scientists and school teachers, in conjunction with the Juneau STEM Coalition and JEDC. Its broad mission is to share ideas, experience and knowledge within our community and, particularly, to facilitate connections among professionals and teachers to enrich education for Juneau students. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau residents fill out a computer survey during a networking event for teachers and STEM community members at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. The SouthEast Exchange is a new collaboration started by scientists and school teachers, in conjunction with the Juneau STEM Coalition and JEDC. Its broad mission is to share ideas, experience and knowledge within our community and, particularly, to facilitate connections among professionals and teachers to enrich education for Juneau students. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A new STEM collaboration has Juneau teachers working hand-in-hand with scientists

“When am I ever going to use this?”

It’s a question every educator is familiar with.

Some teachers welcome the inquiry. Others are just tired of it. None can escape it.

Whether it comes from an eighth grade algebra student or a senior in AP literature, all teachers grapple to demonstrate their curriculum’s real world applications.

A new Juneau organization may be able to help.

SouthEast Exchange (S.E.E.), which hosted its first event Tuesday, seeks to pair classroom teachers with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) professionals in Juneau. With networking events and an online database, the group hopes to foster collaboration between Juneau School District students and Juneau’s many science and engineering professionals.

At Tuesday’s networking event at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center, teachers wearing blue name tags mingled with professionals in red tags. Each carried around blue or red bingo sheets where they had to check off a person who, “likes to tell stories,” or one who, “used to work in a STEM field before teaching.”

The idea was just to get people to meet one another. Free beer and pizza helped. About 150 people showed up for the first event, according to Jordan Watson who helped organize the event.

Brenda Taylor, a teacher at Juneau Charter School and a member of S.E.E. organizer, said teacher-STEM professional collaboration is part of a JSD initiative to strengthen STEM education. The district recently redesigned their curriculum standards to incorporate Next Generation Science Standards. The national program emphasizes hands-on, research-based learning designed for America’s emerging computer coders, biologists, doctors and engineers.

During the development of the new curriculum, “There was a lot of talk about how do we teach science better?” Taylor said.

“What are some things that are going to help us do that? We need to really be using the amazing world that we have here. It’s a phenomenal natural location, we have this entire history of Native Alaskans who’ve lived here for thousands of years, they understand this place. Plus we have all these amazing state and federal local people who are hired to come here to be scientists, engineers, carpenters, electricians and photographers.”

Working together could mean a quick classroom Q&A and lesson, a one-on-one science fair collaboration, or working side-by-side with teachers to develop whole units. It’s up to each how the collaboration would work.

Bridget Brailey, a math and humanities teacher at Montessori Borealis elementary and middle school, said having professionals in the classroom “gives them a real-life way of viewing material.” She met a STEM professional at the S.E.E. meetup whose work can help explain dance through math and plans on having him come by class to help out.

“In the middle school age group, kids are so focused on who they’re going to be in the world and how they’re going to impact the world and what they’re going to do in life,” Brailey said. “So to have different people come in and talk to them about things is pretty impactful and it allows them to recognize that there are so many different paths they can choose.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to reflect the total number of people who attended the event by the end of the night, 150, based on figures provided by an event organizer. The Empire originally reportedan estimated 75 people attended.


 

• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 or kevin.gullufsen@juneauempire.com

 


 

Engineer Jim Rehfeldt trades information with Glacier Valley Elementary Teacher Mareta Weed during a networking event for teachers and STEM community members at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. The SouthEast Exchange is a new collaboration started by scientists and school teachers, in conjunction with the Juneau STEM Coalition and JEDC. Its broad mission is to share ideas, experience and knowledge within our community and, particularly, to facilitate connections among professionals and teachers to enrich education for Juneau students. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Engineer Jim Rehfeldt trades information with Glacier Valley Elementary Teacher Mareta Weed during a networking event for teachers and STEM community members at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. The SouthEast Exchange is a new collaboration started by scientists and school teachers, in conjunction with the Juneau STEM Coalition and JEDC. Its broad mission is to share ideas, experience and knowledge within our community and, particularly, to facilitate connections among professionals and teachers to enrich education for Juneau students. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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