MiSTEM Network examines unconventional learning method

Pilot program focuses on experience-based innovation in the K-12 classroom.
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The pilot program is interested in hands-on STEM instruction as opposed to lessons taught with a textbook. Megan Schrauben

The MiSTEM Network is offering $100,000 in grants to Michigan K-12 science, technology, engineering and math educators to participate in its MiSTEM Playbook pilot.

MiSTEM at Grand Valley State University is coordinating the pilot grant opportunity that will provide MiSTEM Network, a state and regional support structure that leverages public and private partnerships to elevate STEM education, the ability to learn from educators who are using problem-, place- and project-based (3-P learning) in the classroom.

The 3-P learning approach is based on learning through experience, a shift from the traditional classroom learning structure.

Megan Schrauben, MiSTEM Network executive director, said MiSTEM Playbook outlines the strategy required for districts to make a shift toward 3-P learning and can support online, hybrid and informal learning environments outside the classroom. MiSTEM Network programs are targeted toward a specific curriculum in STEM and playbooks are focused on 3-P learning pedagogy.

“Recent changes to traditional norms and basic classroom structures that organize public education have been upended due to the pandemic and have unforetold effects on children’s physical health, cognitive development and emotional well-being,” she said. “MiSTEM seeks to cultivate a STEM culture in K-12 classrooms by engaging with local communities, creating collaborative partnerships with businesses and nonprofits, and engaging families to support a student-centered 3-P learning approach. The focus on partnership work in STEM education, for example, can bring critical support to online, hybrid, and informal learning environments outside the classroom.”

According to MiSTEM Network, the problem-based portion of 3-P learning is about learning a subject through the experience of solving an open-ended problem found in observation, exploration and experimentation of the matter. The place-based part is aimed at solving community problems. It is seeking learning opportunities from the cultural, economic, environmental and geographical aspects of a community. The project-based portion revolves around creating something tangible, such as a product, performance or event.

Based on the 3-P approach, educators can help MiSTEM Network gain more insight into what’s working in the classroom. Before educators are awarded the grants — which will be $10,000 each — there is a competitive nature to the pilot funding opportunity. 

Interested educators must submit an application and applicants who are selected will be invited to deliver a pitch presentation to the MiSTEM pilot reviewers. It will be a 20-minute “Shark Tank” type of virtual session for reviewers to hear firsthand applicants’ innovative school practices with 3-P learning.

The winners will be awarded $10,000 each for June 2021-July 2022. Applicants have until 5 p.m., April 30, to submit their applications at michigan.gov/leo.

According to the state of Michigan’s long-term employment projections, STEM occupations are expected to grow by 13% from 2016 to 2026, almost double the 7% overall growth expected during that period. Some of the STEM occupations are in the computer and mathematical, architecture and engineering, and life and physical science fields.

In addition to the MiSTEM Playbook pilot funding opportunity, MiSTEM Network provides other resources for students and educators.

“MiSTEM offers opportunities for every student in Michigan to engage in STEM programs through STEMworks-certified programs such as Code.org, Mi-STAR, Camp Invention, Cereal City Science and Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, just to name a few,” Schrauben said. “MiSTEM offers professional development for Michigan educators that spans from urban to rural communities. It supports districts with STEM-based community events, field trips and in developing critical relationships with STEM-oriented businesses, organizations and higher education.”

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