With new state-mandated science standards scheduled for implementation beginning in 2025, Fox Chapel Area School District wanted to ensure that its educators had tools for translating them into classroom lessons and knew other districts would be looking for support as well.
It won a PAsmart Advancing Grant to launch the STEM ACES initiative in collaboration with six other districts to give elementary school teachers support for the rollout. As part of the grant, the districts enlisted the Consortium’s Professional Development team to train a group of educators in using Human-Centered Design methods to prepare for the implementation. The trainings finished up at the end of January.
The primary goal of partnering with the Consortium “was to provide educators with some useful tools when reflecting,” said Megan Collett, Ed.D., Fox Chapel’s Executive Director of Instructional & Innovative Leadership.
“We are asking educators to alter teaching practices that they have utilized for most of their careers,” she added. “For some individuals, these new standards will require a significant shift in educational philosophy.”
Collett said her district wanted educators also to be able to give students HCD tools to help them work through problems of scientific practice.
“We have multiple ways of supporting districts in undertaking new initiatives or reimagining and improving their existing programming,” said the Consortium’s Executive Director Jackie Foor. “In addition to HCD trainings, we also offer professional development in Project-Based Learning, and we can customize our trainings to help meet specific objectives. We can organize knowledge and skill-building workshops to support districts in achieving other goals as well.”
For example, the Consortium also supported the multi-district L.E.A.D.S. initiative that ABC CREATE organized under a PAsmart Advancing Grant with a workshop on building business partnerships and training in Project-Based Learning.
Additionally, under both PA Smart grants and under another grant that the Richard King Mellon Foundation awarded to the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, the Consortium is organizing multiple Educator in the Workforce experiences to help educators learn about the region’s employers, the career paths they offer students, and the skills that are most important in their workplaces.
Response has been excellent across the board. For the ACES initiative that Fox Chapel is leading, for example, “The methods and topics designed by the Consortium’s team provided educators with an opportunity to dig in and iterate upon existing lesson plans, curricula, and practices, maintaining the focus entirely on the humans who benefit from these lessons—our students,” said Collett. “The feedback was certainly very positive.”