Last Minute PD
My mentor and I were to lead a PD on the new updates for our SMARTboards on March 14, but it was unexpectedly cancelled in the eleventh hour. After looking through the list of PDs happening that day that were not filled up I decided to go to STEM Education for the Future, put on by the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (or IMSA). The intermediate school where I work is planning on converting our computer lab into a STEM Lab through Project Lead the Way and so it seemed like a good idea. I had never heard of IMSA and thought nothing of it until I walked to my first workshop and ran into a life-size chessboard with (you guessed it!) life-size chess pieces in a student commons area. “Where am I?” I thought to myself.
Snapshot of IMSA
IMSA is a three-year public high school (sophomore through senior year) that is ranked as one of the top ten high schools in the country for math and science. Some notable alum that have attended include Steve Chen, co-founder of YouTube, Russel Simmons, co-founder of Yelp, & Yu Pan, founding team member of PayPal. Students go through a highly competitive application process where only about 1/3 of applicants are allowed to enroll. The school has dorms for its international students. According to one of the workshop leaders, the students only have four days of school with Wednesday being open for students to conduct research and explore. So obviously, this is not your typical school.
Impact of a Lifetime
The deeper I get into the technology side of education I discover over and over that it is not about the technology. I don’t mean to be redundant here (see my first post!) but even though IMSA had amazing resources for their students in the way of robotics, medical research, 3D printing, astrology, the list goes on. Despite these resources, the main theme that stuck out to me was this: Give students space to learn, tools to use and freedom to explore.
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words so I am just going to end this post with all the pictures I took while at IMSA. I must say that I felt like I was given a free pass at the Pentagon or something because I was taking pictures like crazy and was waiting for a nicely dressed guard to tap me on the shoulder and say, “Sir you need to come with me.” before hauling me off and confiscating my phone.
IMSA Photo from Wikipedia
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