Talk about hands-on learning. This wasn’t just hands-on — it was shoes off, too, as educators methodically moved around a “human calculator” mat that looked like a giant game of Twister to learn how a computer works with binary logic.
“This is absolutely amazing,” said Maryvale Teachers Association’s Adam Smith, a high school technology teacher in western New York who asked if he could borrow the mat for the school year. “I can’t wait to try this out with my students.”
Smith was one of about 40 educators who attended an intensive two-day SEMI High Tech U-Teacher Edition program this week at NYSUT headquarters in Albany. Since its inception 11 years ago, the SEMI Foundation summer program has reached more than 600 teachers, offering fun and interactive activities to expose teachers to the world of nanotechnology, microchips and semiconductors.
Aside from the human calculator, participants worked in teams on their hands and knees to use medieval statapult technology to launch Koosh balls and hacky sacks to learn about quality control in modern-day chipmaking.
Modules on everything from coding to chemistry were taught by industry professionals in the area, as well as higher education faculty. A highlight was a field trip to the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at SUNY Polytechnic Institute for a behind-the-scenes tour.
“NYSUT is proud to sponsor this program — it’s exciting to so many members from different districts, grade levels and subject areas,” said NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango. “NYSUT has always been and will continue to be a staunch supporter of professional development opportunities.”
DiBrango noted that, not only will participants learn practical applications of science technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills they can use in the classroom, they can also earn 14 Continuing Teacher & Leader Education (CTLE) state-required hours from NYSUT’s Education & Learning Trust.
Janine Sargalis and Stefanie Scram, both kindergarten teachers and Berne-Knox-Westerlo Teachers Association members, said the course was highly recommended by their school’s librarian.
“It really makes me think differently about things like vocabulary and teaching patterns to build the foundational level for our students,” Sargalis said. “And, as a kindergarten teacher, it’s great to learn more about how to make learning even more engaging.”
“These hands-on activities are perfect with the Next Generation Learning Standards,” said Sandra Wilkins, a Saranac Teachers Association member and middle school special education teacher for math and science. “And coming from the North Country, this is such a great opportunity to network with colleagues from all over the state.”
“This is the best professional development I’ve had in my 11 years of teaching,” added Johnstown Teachers Association’s Barbara Van Der Werken. As a family and consumer science teacher, she said the course would help her expand her career exploration curriculum when it comes to STEM opportunities.