Building a Region of STEM Educators

Developing STEM skills in today’s students is essential to solving the challenges of tomorrow.

by Kathie Brown, University of Illinois Extension
Teacher Tuesdays
At a recent Teacher Tuesdays event, Titan Games of Peoria Heights helped participants learn how games can be used to develop critical thinking, communication and decision-making skills.

In an ever-changing, increasingly complex world, it’s vital that our nation’s youth know how to gather and evaluate evidence to make decisions, how to make sense of information, and how to work collaboratively to solve problems. These are the kinds of skills students develop in science, technology, engineering and math—the disciplines collectively known as STEM. 

Stem Skills Are Essential
If we want a nation in which our future leaders, neighbors and workers have the ability to understand and solve the challenges of today and tomorrow—and meet the demands of a dynamic and evolving workforce—building students’ skills, content knowledge and fluency in STEM fields is essential. We must also make sure that no matter where children live, they have access to a quality learning environment. One’s zip code should not determine their STEM fluency.

In the Greater Peoria region, the University of Illinois Extension is actively working to support the diverse array of organizations that impact STEM education by encouraging connections, sharing resources and facilitating learning exchanges through a series of monthly meetings. Along with several partners, we are helping schools and organizations amplify the passion, innovation, creativity and diversity in our region—and maximize the local impact on educational programming opportunities. 

Forest Park Nature Center
Forest Park Nature Center staff took Teacher Tuesdays participants on an adventure that opened up new ideas about STEM learning that can happen out in nature.

Teacher Tuesdays
The Teacher Tuesdays program encourages professional educators and STEM program providers to network and learn more about the amazing STEM resources and careers available in central Illinois. This professional development programming is designed to foster peer-to-peer support, introduce new resources, and provide networking with businesses and organizations promoting STEM education. 

Now in its third year of programming, Teacher Tuesdays has reached more than 600 educators from nine Illinois counties, representing 244 schools and out-of-school organizations with the potential to reach over 80,000 youth and adults. Additionally, the Tech Teachers GP online network was created to expand upon Teacher Tuesdays’ objectives. To learn more about the resources and ideas shared through this collaboration, join the Facebook group or sign up to receive monthly email notices at go.illinois.edu/FMPTeblast.

The 2019-2020 Teacher Tuesdays season kicks off on August 10, 2019 at Ignite Peoria in the Peoria Civic Center. Regularly scheduled sessions begin on September 17 with a STEAM resource fair at the Peoria Riverfront Museum. Registration is available online at go.illinois.edu/teachertuesdays. PM

Kathie Brown is a community and economic development educator with the University of Illinois Extension.

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