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PNNL Plays Key Role in K-12 Principals STEM Leadership Program

During the annual Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP) workshop, Elizabeth Stephens, Energy and Environment Directorate, shared her journey as a young Hispanic woman, including her educational and internship path culminating in a job at PNNL.

Her story is inspiring, her message is powerful, and she captured the attention of principals who have students like Elizabeth in their schools. Hearing her story, they were eager to engage in a challenge to design windmill blades that could produce enough energy to light a small bulb.

'Never underestimate the power you have on students. Students will go far just by having someone believe in them,' claims Elizabeth.

An important component to improving STEM education is the leadership role that school principals play in this effort. To help leaders improve their knowledge and skills, the AWSP and PNNL collaborate to train cohorts of elementary, middle and high school principals to realize STEM education improvement.

AWSP is the only state principals' association in the country conducting STEM leadership training for principals and other school administrators. The Science & Engineering Education Division (SEE) at PNNL is proud to have been asked to work with them (since 2010) in the endeavor to design and deliver models of professional development for Washington's K-12 principals.

The principals were placed into design teams, mimicking a PNNL research team comprised of individuals with different backgrounds and expertise. The teams spent several hours gathering data through investigations designed by Stephens and Peggy Willcuts, SEE, who works on Washington State Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform initiatives. The principals were then asked to examine their data and begin the design and testing phase to come up with a final set of blades that would successfully light the bulb. They shared their findings in a mock symposium.

This cohort of principals will return in the fall, when Peggy and Paula Quinn, AWSP Director of Professional Development, will work with them and the teacher leaders they identified to bring into the work.