inGenious Teacher Of The Month: Stella Magid

 

How did you join inGenious? 

Two years ago I become a teacher trainer in the Tel-Aviv district in Israel. All teacher trainers from different districts of the country received an invitation from the Ministry of Education and from the MAKASH Association to participate in inGenious. 

This was the first time in Israel that all STEM teachers had got an invitation to become part of a European project and, after a few months, seven teachers were chosen to become part of inGenious and I was lucky to be one of them.   

What have been the benefits of participating?

One of the most important benefits for me was to become part of a European and international community of teachers. Israel doesn't officially belong to the EU, but our curriculum in STEM, international testing and assessment regimes are common to many countries of the OECD. It was very important and interesting to me also to meet teachers from different countries and have the opportunity to develop activities with them during our face-to-face meetings, and then to implement international practices in my classes, tailored to local needs. It is great to have the chance to get ideas from international colleagues and share my experience with them.

What impact did participation have on your professional development?

It has been huge. During my MSc degree I did research into science education and my conclusion was that, if we made STEM issues more relevant to students' real life, we’d increase their interest, motivation and understanding of STEM, through education. 

Participation in the inGenious project helps me to make that happen. Connecting schools and industry, science and technology, and exposing students to the realities of different careers in the STEM industry helps overcome the gap that exists between education and real life. In the 21st century, STEM education can't be only theoretical.

I also teach courses of STEM in higher education at the Technion-Technology institute and college for teacher training. Participation in inGenious means I can spread the word to the teachers of the future.   

What practices have you tested? Which is your favorite?

I’ve tested Chemistry: It's All About You, All About Energy and Xperimania. The first is my favourite and I originally encountered it at a workshop at the last summer school in Barcelona. I like the fact that this activity is flexible and gives you the freedom to develop a lesson plan that fits in with the interests of both the students and the teacher. In fact I liked it so much, I’m developing my own, unique learning unit called Chemistry & Space: It's All About You.

Please tell us about it!

I think it’s a great activity. It took place over three lessons and the students were told that they would meet an expert – a chemical engineer from NASA. So first of all, they prepared their questions for him. During the second lesson, students met the expert and he discussed NASA’s activities and his work as a chemical engineer, with emphasis on the importance of his own chemistry studies. He also talked about his time in high school, including which STEM subjects he studied and his choice of career. The students had an opportunity to ask both questions that they had prepared and new questions that arose during the meeting. For example, they asked about the Space Shuttle Colombia disaster, when Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, died. 

During the third lesson, students watched two videos from Chemistry: It's All About You and then had a discussion about the importance of STEM studies in general and chemistry studies in particular. 

At the end of the activity, students wrote down their thoughts on the whole practice. Most of them particularly liked meeting with an expert, and the fact that he could explain his job in straight-forward, non technical language. Students liked the fact that they had a chance to practice their English and half wrote that they would like to work for NASA in the future.   

What has been the impact of inGenious on your pupils? 

In two words: very positive. They have had a chance to be exposed to interesting activities and to participate in international chats. Also, the fact that students can ask a question during a chat session and an expert will answer it – and mention their country and their class – also helps the students to feel like they belong to international and unique community in STEM education. They feel very special that they can participated in such an interesting project.  

What’s your experience of meeting industry executives? 

It's great when there is an opportunity for students to meet industry executives. They can have a chance to be exposed to innovative subjects in science and technology that take place in real life. Sometimes, it's difficult to set up meetings, but for my Chemistry and Space activity, I had a personal connection with an expert, so in that case it was no problem.

What will you be trying next year? 

Next year, I’ll be trying DeforestACTION. Environmental issues are very important in the teaching and learning of STEM. I will try to involve STEM education based on cinematography and art in the activity.

I also want to persue the Chemistry: It's All About You practice in a different way next year. My students really liked the first part of It’s All About Energy, so I’ll try out the second part with them.

How is industry-school collaboration seen in your country?

There is a good collaboration between schools and industry in Israel, and our curriculum in STEM encourages students to go on visits. Many industrial facilities have educational units, which teachers can use during these trips. Also, we have an association that works in cooperation with the Ministry of Education to connect schools and businesses for different projects.

There are different projects for gifted students, for students with challenges and even professional development courses for teachers, which I participate in myself. We have tours to different types of innovative industrial factories, have meetings with experts and together we prepare materials and field trips for our students.  

Is STEM teaching high on the policy agenda in Israel?

Yes. During last few years, a new curriculum in STEM education has been implemented in secondary schools. STEM subjects received more teaching hours and teachers obtained professional development programmes. In many schools, new science and technology classes began, and schools got new equipment for laboratories. As a result, students' scores in local and international exams in STEM have increased.

Will you participate to the inGenious schools competition? 

Sure! I am going to submit at least two activities for the competition. One of them took place at the end of the last school year, based around a trip to one of the best-known milk product factories in Israel, and it focuses on chemistry and biology. This activity also includes sections which encourage critical thinking and making decisions about different ethical and health-related issues. 

I’m currently working on a second activity which will include biology and technology subjects. Its main aim will be to increase students' interest and motivation in STEM subjects and careers, and to show them an inter-disciplinary approach to STEM.   

Published: Dec 2013