Q&A: Harrisburg’s Cheryl Capozzoli on How Anything is STEMpossible

Meet Cheryl Capozzoli, the STEM Coordinator for Harrisburg School District, in Pennsylvania, where over the past three years, STEM learning has really taken off.

During Discovery Education’s recent STEM Symposium event in Florida, we had a chance to catch up with Capozzoli, and learn how she has been helping to drive the district’s STEM efforts.

Describe your experience at the recent National STEM Symposium in Santa Rosa School District, FL.

Capozzoli: The STEM Symposium was an excellent opportunity to connect and share with other STEM leaders from around the US. I also got to see STEM in action at Santa Rosa SD which allowed me to see quality examples of STEM teaching and learning.

Why is STEM important to you?

Capozzoli: STEM is important to me simply because as a leader in STEM education, I know that a future will include many facets of and require increased levels of STEM knowledge and skills.

All of today’s children have the right to equitable STEM access. With deliberate and focused STEM teaching and learning opportunities, students will develop the skills needed to be successful now and in the future. They will know that anything is STEMpossible if they have the desire to work hard, be creative, and follow their dreams.

What steps are you taking in your district to incorporate STEM in student learning?

Capozzoli: Harrisburg School District has been gaining ground in STEM at all levels. The middle schools have SMART or STEM labs in their buildings. We have a STEM Leadership Corp Cohort innovating with STEM transdisciplinary lessons while integrating high yield STEM resources. Our partners work with us to celebrate Engineering Week, offer after school and summer STEM programs and resources for STEM project based learning experiences.

Do you have a story to share about a student whose life has been impacted positively through STEM experiences?

Capozzoli: The students at Harrisburg School District did not have equitable access in STEM until the comprehensive action plan of STEM Immersion. We have brought many STEM opportunities to all levels K-12. We are developing STEM Career Pathways to support and encourage STEM career and college pathways options for our HS students. Our STEM Hub hosts many events for STEM professional learning and student hands-on events.

How do you define STEM in your district?

Capozzoli: STEM is all around us. We are still in the early stages of development, but we have moved far in three years. STEM is a way of engaging students in a variety of learning and doing. The focus is about instructional practices that move beyond rote memorization. It takes learning and deeper levels. It inspires creativity and critical thinking and inquiry. STEM is a way of thinking about teaching and learning. It’s a way of overlapping standards and skills in order to make learning real-world and relevantly connected for our students. We still have a long way to go, but STEM is at every school at some level and this has not been the case in the past.

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