Teachers and Researchers Attend STEM Education Conference at UMaine 

A meeting of the minds is going on at UMaine in Orono this week. Those in attendance are the ones shaping the young minds of Maine’s students and they’re hoping to solve a big problem.”I think the state of science and mathematics education in this country is reaching an emergency level,” said David Harmon, Senior Engineer at IBM.The group at the Research in STEM Education (RISE) conference knows there just aren’t enough students entering the STEM fields, which are science, technology, engineering and math. So they’re trying to find new ways to teach these subjects to make them more appealing to K-12 students.”If we can figure out how to teach these subjects in ways that really help excite students, engage students, let them see the value of these subjects and the skills that they learn as they work in these areas, then I think we’ll have many more students who choose to follow these kinds of career areas,” said Susan McKay, Director of the Maine Center for Research in STEM Education and UMaine physics professor.To help figure it out, this conference brings together researchers who study how students learn these subjects and those who teach them.”We can try to get the practices that are supported by research into the teaching venues and we can also understand from the educators’ standpoint what are the important questions that need to be answered through research,” said McKay.Given the nature of these subjects, things are changing constantly.”We have new tools, technologies, etc. and then there’s new math and science all the time and some of that will work its way into the K-12 curriculum,” said Karen King, Director of Research at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.Though many in this group are usually the ones teaching, they know that in the STEM fields there’s always more to learn.The RISE conference began on Wednesday and continues through Friday.