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PNNL LASER Bring Professional Development to Education Leaders

The professional development sessions started in 1997 with just 30 teachers and a few administrators, and today, more than 94 teachers and school administrators representing 12 school districts and two private schools attend the STEM Leadership Networking Forum sessions, three times a year.Put your "teacher" hat on for a moment.

Pretend you were given a Ziploc bag containing popsicle sticks, rubber bands and some plastic cutlery. Would you be able to build a prosthetic hand that could pick up a cotton ball, an eraser, a pencil, piece of paper and a film canister full of marbles? And once you figured that out, how would you go about influencing fellow teachers to incorporate this exercise into their lesson plans?

We know teachers and parents have the most influence over kids' belief system, learning and goal-setting for the future. We also know a teacher's principal can pave the way for more science and engineering education in their school if they value those experiences through first-hand exposure to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) lessons. That's why the PNNL Office of STEM Education partners with SE Washington LASER and Educational Service District 123 to impact the STEM ecosystem in a sustainable way, influencing teachers and administrators together in a leadership team, to bring STEM into their schools via in-service training.

At a session on Jan. 23, co-facilitated by Peggy Willcuts, Office of STEM Education, and the Georgia Boatman, Educational Service District, these regional leadership teams were fully engaged in studying the Next Generation Science Standards and experiencing a hands-on example of those standards in action as they worked through this engineering design challenge. Their excitement was palpable as they worked in small groups to collaboratively build their prosthetic hands and discuss best STEM teaching practices.

School administrators are required to attend to increase their depth of knowledge and because they are key advocates to sparking change in the STEM education ecosystem. The charge for these leadership teams (teachers and administrators) is to go back and make something happen in their schools or districts. It's a slow, but sustainable process—and it's making a difference in our community.

At the end of the day, participants were given the gift of time — precious time to synthesize what they'd learned and to create a plan of action for how best to bring what they learned back to their home schools in a sustainable way. Some teams' actions were to turn around what they have learned into professional development for their fellow teachers. Some teams planned a STEM Night experience for the families in their school. And, some teams designed opportunities for teams of teachers to work together to add engineering design challenges to their existing science curriculum.

At this event, several special guests attended to witness the professional development opportunity first-hand. These included the new executive director of the Washington STEM Education Foundation, Deb Bowen; the director of the Math/Science Partnership grants from the Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction, Anne Gallagher; and PNNL's Assistant Lab Director for Organizational Development, Paula Linnen. The guests also toured the Battelle Science Resource Center. See related article.

PNNL advances STEM education regionally through signature programs and partnerships, including WA State LASER, the Delta High School, MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) and Work-Based Learning. To learn more about LASER or to get involved, visit our website or contact