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NIU conference offers ideas for inspiring K-12 students

Robots in the classroom. Science-infused artwork. Digital storytelling. Teachers will learn how to make their classrooms more exciting by adding the arts to STEM to produce STEAM (science, technology, arts, engineering and math) during “STEAMing It Up,” a one-day conference at Northern Illinois University’s Gabel Hall, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 3.

Bringing STEAM into the classroom gets students fired up about interdisciplinary learning, fosters their creativity, and encourages them to relate the curriculum to their lives outside of school – all of which fits perfectly with the new Illinois Learning Standards for math, language arts and science. Conference attendees will participate in hands-on workshops, attend networking sessions, and head home with ready-to-use classroom tools and lesson plans.

The keynote speaker is Tim Farquer, superintendent of Williamsfield School District 201. In recent years, students from Williamsfield have engaged in a variety of interdisciplinary projects that address real-world issues and make their community a better place to live and learn. To improve access to healthy, locally grown food, students built a hydroponics program that now provides fresh produce to the cafeteria.

Williamsfield students also recently participated in an industry-led renewable energy challenge. The school is considering the students’ proposal to implement a vertical wind turbine on the school that will serve as source of clean, renewable energy for a cell phone charging station. They are also testing biodiesel fuel and planning student-run workshops to educate community members on smart, renewable technology. Superintendent Farquer will discuss his experiences and share lessons learned.

Kristin Brynteson, assistant director of NIU’s innovative Center for P-20 Engagement, which organized the conference, will facilitate several of the day’s breakout sessions and moderate a panel of educators who have successfully incorporated STEAM programming into their curriculum.

Other breakout sessions will be facilitated by P-20 Center STEAM experts, whose presentations for educators are always popular.

The cost of $95 per person includes breakfast, lunch and parking. Professional Development Hours are available. Registration information and a full list of workshops can be found at niu.edu/stem. For more information contact Kristin Brynteson at kbrynteson@niu.edu.

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