Meet Peter Färdig — a K–8 STEM coordinator in the Framingham Public School System, one of the largest districts in Massachusetts. All across Framingham’s schools, students are expanding their horizons with Discovery Education Streaming and Discovery Education Science Techbook, which are helping drive the district’s STEM program.
Recently, Färdig was invited to participate in Discovery Education’s first National STEM Symposium in Santa Rosa, FL. We caught up with Färdig recently to hear about that experience, and why STEM has become so important for today’s classrooms.
How would you describe your time at the recent National STEM Symposium?
Färdig: The National STEM Symposium has provided me with the opportunity to sit alongside like-minded professionals and explore many of the transitions and current challenges that are facing schools with regard to science and STEM education. Together we were able to grapple with technology shifts, more rigorous demands on teachers and learners, and glean a broader understanding of how schools across the nation are working to best support our students.
Why is STEM important to you?
Färdig: STEM is important to me because it is most accurately explained as “applied learning.” It is the deliberate opportunity that we create in schools and classrooms to ensure that students are developing subject area knowledge and connecting it with additional content.
Working to ensure that applied learning/STEM opportunities are present in schools means that we are eliminating terms like “real-world settings, giving students authentic skills that can be immediately translated to college and career settings. STEM learning makes a school hands-on and exciting; it makes learning part of a community, giving the school day a greater purpose. Who wouldn’t want to add more purpose to their day?
What steps are you taking at your district to incorporate STEM in student learning?
Färdig: Our district is taking three major steps toward ensuring STEM is part of learning by:
- Developing a K-12 strand of project-based learning programs that includes a growing K-3 STEAM school, a 6-8 STEAM School, and high school programming that is co-taught and cross-disciplinary.
- Enhancing district programming by connecting science, math and ELA practices within curriculum units.
- Developing a team of core leaders within the school system that has experience implementing science and engineering practices in the classroom.
How do you define STEM in your district?
Färdig: STEM is an opportunity. It is a chance that we provide to students where they can demonstrate their thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving in a way that connects content area disciplines. STEM makes teaching and learning exciting, because we often use what we know about students interests to incorporate into the school day.
Our district has also taken steps forward to establish a STEAM program. This program is most accurately defined as project-based learning (PBL). Within the STEAM program, teachers provide students with presentation opportunities several times each year. During these presentations of learning, students share what they have learned, define their learning challenges, and explain the strategies they took to remain successful. King Elementary School (K-3) is one example of a developing STEAM school that works tirelessly and successfully so that all students are learning.