FLEMING ISLAND – For the most part, school principals are not known to be the kind of leaders who take time to play, however, they were recently encouraged to by School Superintendent Addison Davis.
Davis brought STEM2Hub, a Northeast Florida nonprofit that focuses on improving science, technology, engineering and math education, to Clay County Nov. 27 for a day of training and, well, play at the Fleming Island High Teacher Training Center.
STEM2hub Executive Director Kathleen Schofield worked with Davis and Lego Education to ingrain Clay County principals that day in the STEM education that is already going on in their schools. During the eight-hour experience, principals learned how to code, create music-playing programs and build Lego robots.
“Our media specialists went to training earlier this year in which they received some of these robots and some of these materials already,” said Rodney Ivey, principal at Swimming Pen Creek Elementary. “So, we were able to go in and learn the ways our specialists and teachers will be implementing the use of those in classrooms. We basically went through the training as if we were the students and it was very engaging and fun.”
Ivey said he left that day with a greater understanding of how certain STEM technologies are being used to educate students in his school, which is exactly the kind of knowledge Davis hoped the principals returned to their schools with.
“The biggest thing for us is to make certain that when we try to implement a new learning concept into our schools, that we ensure our principals and school-based leaders are at the forefront of the training, so they can understand what best practices look like,” Davis said. “We wanted them to leave with a better understanding and hands-on experience of the STEM education going on in their schools every day.”
Schofield said it was STEM2Hub’s job to help Davis bring that vision to life. She also said that by the end of the day, she saw principals who had not only gained an important understanding of STEM technology and how it’s used with students, but genuine smiles.
“By the end of the day, and even after the first activity, I saw smiles,” Schofield said. “I heard collaboration between these principals in problem solving and working through what was before them. And then more importantly, and this is what you couldn’t do if they hadn’t had the experience they got in there, they saw how all of this aligns to the standards that the kids are expected to learn.”
Schofield said they experienced the math required to build a Lego robot, the scientific concepts needed to code something and the problem solving necessary to wire a circuit board. According to Schofield, that day served as an important shift in educational leadership spearheaded by Davis, who is the first Northeast Florida superintendent to do something like this.
“It’s so important that our leaders understand how these things are so tightly aligned to the work that we need to be doing in school,” Schofield said. “They understand what their teachers are doing from an overview, but this kind of hands-on experience is so critically important for them to truly understand what it is that teachers are doing and how it applies to student education.”
Following the STEM workshop, Schofield and Davis both said the event was extremely successful and that they hope to see it extended to assistant principals and other leaders in the future.
“I want all of our leaders to be a part of the learning curve so that they can really understand what we’re trying to accomplish here in Clay County,” Davis said. “Lego Education said they were really excited about this because it was the first time anybody had ever asked to get adults involved so yeah, we’re hoping to get even more leaders involved in the future.”
Before becoming the Executive Director of STEM2Hub, Schofield was the STEM supervisor for the Clay County School District and was the person who brought robotics to the district in 2012.
“To see how far that’s come today, it’s incredible,” Schofield said. “This event was probably one of the most powerful learning experiences that I have ever seen.”