STEM. I have said many times, “I am an English teacher, and that ‘E’ doesn’t involve me!”
Except...it could. And logically it should because as a teacher who seeks to reach learners of all kinds, I should by necessity seek out the BEST ways to teach all of my students, not just the “English-y” ways. I know that. But knowing something and actually putting it into practice are different. And while I am fairly adept at bolstering my units with art, music, and history infusions, I often shy away from including science, math, engineering, and technology...you know STEM! I don’t use them often because I am afraid. These are each a weakness for me, and the last way I want to look in front of students is weak.
But a concept I already knew was reinforced for me again at Space Camp, and it was this: challenges can and will cause both tears and inspiration. During my time there I experienced both. But I brought back valuable lessons and excitement to share with my future students. And I hope that when it’s all said and done, even my students will say, “Yeah we did a ton of STEM in high school...mostly in Mrs. Fox’s English class!”
Space Camp for Educators is an incredibly cool program. I felt very lucky to be able to attend, but I was filled with trepidation and anxiety because I am not “good” at “science-y stuff.” Sadly, I did not accomplish great feats with some latent technological talent that emerged like a butterfly from her cocoon while I was there. Actually “Rocket Day” caused me to break down in tears; I struggled building it while everyone else flourished. And when everyone else’s rockets soared to the sky...mine flew skyward four feet, took a sharp right turn, crashed into the ground, and caught on fire. And everyone laughed, including me. But I laughed to hide my embarrassment and feelings of inadequacy because I had (once again) failed. No, from that lesson I didn’t take away any hopes of increasing my prowess, but I did realize the hardships my students must sometimes feel in my classroom. I am a wordsmith, and I love to read; I sometimes take for granted that not all students come into my room with that same assured confidence. Had I ever made them feel inadequate in my classroom the same way I felt inadequate building my rocket? This tearful experience caused me to take a pause and to reflect on some of my teaching practices.
My inspiration set new goals for my 2019-2020 school year. Homer Hickam read excerpts from his novel Rocket Boys, and my soul was ignited into action. This piece of literature stands to infuse STEM concepts into all content areas while also serving as an outstanding novel study. I have already imagined it as a summer reading choice for our entire school, complete with our own rocket build and launch on the fiftieth anniversary of the lunar landing. I am working with colleagues and administration to “engineer” the project into fruition (pun intended!). I am so grateful that Space Camp, the STEM mecca that I feared so greatly, produced an opportunity to effectively reach ALL of my learners in ways they need most!
Now...bring on those rockets!
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