The West Dallas Stem School is a partnership between the Dallas Independent School District, SMU, the Toyota Foundation USA and the West Dallas Community. Now in its second year, the school wasrecently profiled by the Dallas Morning News.
Category: Teaching and Learning
Volunteers to plant 30 fruit trees Monday at West Dallas Stem School, Launching Learning Garden
DALLAS (SMU) – Volunteers will plant a fruit tree orchard between 9 a.m. and noon Monday, Dec. 12 at Dallas ISD’s West Dallas STEM School — the first step of the school’s planned learning garden.
When the trees mature in three years, students will harvest as many apples, pears, peaches, figs and paw paws as they can eat. Other produce will be distributed through the campus general store, or shared with West Dallas nonprofit, Brother Bill’s Helping Hand.
School volunteers and partners from SMU, Toyota USA Foundation and the West Dallas community will prepare the site for each tree, then plant and stake them. Grow North Texas, the Dallas affiliate of the Giving Grove, a national nonprofit serving communities experiencing food insecurity, is providing the trees and will oversee the planting process. To ensure a healthy and productive orchard, Grow North Texas has trained two tree stewards from Brother Bill’s Helping Hand to oversee continuing care.
The West Dallas STEM School orchard is the 11th Dallas-area orchard planted by GROW North Texas’ Giving Grove program this fall, with more scheduled by the end of February. A grant from Domino’s Pizza is funding the project through One Tree Planted, a global reforestation organization.
The mature orchard is expected to produce more than 20,000 servings of healthy fruit each year, with a typical tree lifespan of 20-30 years or more. The orchard will preserve urban greenspace, increase tree canopy and offer important environmental benefits, including carbon sequestration, improved soil biology and stormwater absorption.
In addition, the orchard will be an outdoor laboratory that will strengthen the unique project-based STEM curriculum at the West Dallas STEM School, opened in 2021 as a collaboration between Dallas ISD, SMU, the Toyota USA Foundation and the West Dallas community.
What: An urban orchard of 30 fruit trees will be planted at Dallas ISD’s West Dallas STEM School
When: 9 a.m. remarks and groundbreaking. Planting to follow.
Where: West Dallas STEM School, 2200 Dennison St., Dallas. Orchard entrance off Hampton Road, south of Texas Quality Remodeling
Tackling the Great Teacher Resignation – One Teacher at a Time
DALLAS (SMU) – College students like Mary Cabanas are in the pipeline to relieve the impact of widespread teacher resignations threatening U.S. public education. But what sets Cabanas apart is that she will enter a tough profession with her eyes wide open, thanks to determination, mentorship and training from SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development.
“Ongoing problems in education have been magnified by the pandemic and the political division in the U.S.,” says Stephanie Knight, Simmons School dean. “And previous approaches to solving the teacher shortage, like alternative certifications, haven’t worked.”
Teachers need to develop knowledge and skills in the classroom early in their teacher education, Knight says. They also need higher pay and to be treated like professionals, which includes the opportunity to be collaborative and creative, Knight says.
Cabanas’ trajectory as an education student may be a model for other students. She has taken collaboration with other future teachers into her own hands, forming SMU’s first student organization for education majors. But instead of taking field trips and hosting guest speakers, each week the Hilltop Educators meet to discuss controversial subjects in education, like book bans and school shootings.
The senior mathematics and education major has been planning to become a teacher since 8th grade. She worked in a classroom early, observing and even teaching a pre-K class as a future teacher intern in high school. At SMU, she is a recipient of the Noyce Teacher Scholarship, which commits her to teach math at a high-need school after graduation in exchange for a scholarship funded by the National Science Foundation.
Mentorship by Noyce Scholar faculty sponsors has opened other doors for Cabanas. On Saturday mornings, she can be found on campus assisting in an education research project comparing the effectiveness of using iPads vs. virtual reality to teach geometry. She also spent a summer researching best practices in math education by watching videos of math teachers and coding their teaching practices. In addition, Cabanas helped analyze the effectiveness of demonstrating to students how workers use math in their careers.
“I’ll take what I’ve learned from research into my classroom,” Cabanas says.
Participating in education research gives Noyce Scholars the opportunity to be part of a larger academic community dedicated to bringing evidence-based practice to education, says Annie Wilhelm, one of Cabanas’ Noyce Scholar mentors and an associate professor of teaching and learning at SMU’s Simmons School.
“Research gives students the opportunity to connect what they are learning in class with the K-12 classroom,” Wilhelm says.
Cabanas’ motivation is personal – she wants to teach because teachers made a difference in her life. She moved with her family from Mexico to Texas and, as a 12-year-old middle schooler, faced the challenges of 7th-grade along with the task of learning English and settling in to Garland, Texas.
“My teachers saw my potential,” she says. “As a newcomer, I was scared. It helped to know there were adults who were there for me.”
Cabanas should find plenty of teaching openings when she graduates. Almost two in five teachers plan to quit in the next two years, according to a June survey of members of the American Federation of Teachers.
After graduating in May of 2023, Cabanas plans to begin work at SMU on her Master’s degree in math education while completing her student teaching in fall of 2023. Her dream is to teach math at North Garland High School, where her teachers were so influential to her.
“I have to do this for the next generation,” she said. “If not me, who will?”
Photo cutline: Mary Cabanas, photo courtesy of SMU
NSF Noyce Track 4 Grant Award to Jeanna Wieselmann Makes Examination of Integrated STEM Instruction Possible
Assistant Professor Jeanna Wieselmann, Ph.D., heads up a collaborative research team investigating how elementary teachers integrate their instruction of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The project, Research on Integrated STEM Self-Efficacy (RISE), will examine the STEM integration of 700 elementary teachers who experienced ten different teacher preparation programs across the U.S.
According to Wieselmann, quality integrated STEM instruction requires teachers to attend to the unique aspects of each discipline while also bringing them together in authentic learning opportunities for students, and this can be challenging. The aim is to support the national need to develop and retain highly effective elementary school teachers.
“Elementary teachers are often expected to teach integrated STEM, but teacher preparation programs have been slow to incorporate experiences that prepare teachers for this type of instruction, instead of focusing on mathematics and science as completely separate disciplines. ” she says. “Our project will explore how we can better support early-career elementary teachers to build their confidence and effectiveness in teaching integrated STEM lessons, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of instruction students experience.”
Wieselmann, a faculty member in Simmons’ Department of Teaching and Learning, is the principal investigator of the project’s National Science Foundation Noyce Track 4 research grant (DUE-2151045) totaling $1.3 million. Additional principal investigators include Deepika Menon, Ph.D. (University of Nebraska, Lincoln), Sarah Haines, Ph.D. (Towson University), and Sumreen Asim. Ph.D. (Indiana University Southeast).
Kiersten Ferguson Receives Provost’s Teaching Recognition Award
Clinical Associate Professor Kiersten Ferguson, Department of Education Policy & Leadership, was honored with the Provost’s Teaching Recognition Award during the University’s spring faculty meeting. She was one of two recipients of the award.
The Provost’s Recognition Award is given to full-time non-tenure-track faculty who demonstrate a commitment to excellence and a consummate dedication to teaching and learning. The non-tenure-track candidate must have taught credited courses full time for a minimum of 5 continuous years prior to the year of nomination. This award provides an opportunity to honor the contributions to teaching at SMU. The award also carries a $1,000 stipend.
In describing Ferguson’s teaching, Provost Elizabeth Loboa said, ” Her pedagogy stands out with a clear, research-oriented approach, a willingness to change and listen to students to foster a greater community of learners.”
Ferguson also directs the M.Ed. in the department’s Higher Education program and is a Provost Faculty Fellow for Equity and Inclusion.
Allor Presents Expertise in Dallas Morning News Article on Language Development
The Dallas Morning News called on University Distinguished Professor Jill Allor to comment on Dallas ISD plans to help parents prepare their prekindergarteners for school. Allor, a top researcher in literacy acquisition for students with and without disabilities, explained that oral language development for infants through three-year-olds is a crucial pre-reading skill. Read more.
NSF Awards Candace Walkington and Dallas STEM Walk Partner $2.5 M to Take Math to the Streets with Gamified App
DALLAS (SMU) – To SMU math curriculum researcher Candace Walkington, the best way for students to understand math is to make it part of their lives. She’ll use her recent $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to help students see that math is in the angle of a giraffe’s neck at the Dallas Zoo and in the flutter of the leaves of the cottonwood trees at Twelve Hills Nature Center in Oak Cliff.
These are just two of the stops on Dallas STEM walks, guided walks that illustrate how mathematical principles can be found in one’s surroundings. During the five-year grant, Walkington will partner with Dallas STEM walk nonprofit, talkSTEM, to better understand how educators can support math education outside of school and the role out-of-school experiences like these play in enhancing math education. First up: developing an app that turns a cell phone into an interpretive math tool.
“In this research, rather than having kids see math as symbols that exist on a worksheet or on a computer screen, we want them to see it as something that exists in the world all around them – the trees, the buildings, the artwork and the things they use every day,” says Walkington, associate professor of teaching and learning at SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development. “We want to help them to look at the world through the lens of math.”
Researchers will spend the first year of this grant developing a gamified app called Mathfinder, which is targeted to students in grades four through eight. The app will use augmented reality (AR) to create overlays enabling learners to hold up the camera of their cell phones to see mathematical expressions layered over the real-world objects in their camera feeds, such as the angles and shapes within the architecture of a building. It also will include short videos and directions for STEM walks, Walkington says.
Students also will be able to use Mathfinder to create and share STEM walks in their own neighborhoods, says Elizabeth Stringer, director of academics for SMU’s Guildhall video game design program and a co-investigator on the grant.
“Mathfinder will give feedback to students on the walks they create and provide data to community partners on how much time students spend at each stop,” she says.
STEM walks at nine Dallas learning sites will be featured in the app, including the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Zoo, Frontiers of Flight Museum, the GEMS Camp, the Girl Scouts STEM Center of Excellence, St. Phillips School and Community Center, Twelve Hills Nature Center and Voice of Hope Ministries.
At the Dallas Arboretum, Dustin Miller, director of experience and innovation, says the four-stop Arboretum STEM walk is already popular with visitors.
“At the Arboretum’s Children’s Adventure Garden, the educational intent is very straightforward,” he says. “The main garden’s STEM walk, however, gives people a way to engage with the garden in a way they don’t expect.”
Participating in the research will give the Arboretum an opportunity to collect quantitative data on site, he says. “This research will help us create ways for visitors to experience the gardens in a new and different way.”
For Koshi Dhingra, founder and CEO of talkSTEM, a nonprofit dedicated to the development of future STEM leaders, participating in the research will help her nonprofit understand best practices for creating STEM walks and correcting roadblocks to learning. The creation of the Mathfinder app promises to make STEM walks more engaging and convenient, she says.
Dhingra earned her doctorate in science education and has dedicated her career to STEM education, but has new appreciation for the importance of understanding mathematical concepts as a building block for all sciences.
“When students begin to see that math is all around them, not just in an algebra or calculus textbook, they begin to see themselves as math people,” she says. “They need this competency and confidence to open doors to other STEM fields.”
The NSF grant builds on Walkington’s previous research on math education. An associate professor of teaching and learning at SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, Walkington has earned more than $11 million in math education research grants, and in 2019 received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from the U.S. Department of Education. Co-principal investigators for the grant include Dhingra; Anthony Petrosino, Simmons associate dean for research and outreach; Cathy Ringstaff, senior research associate, WestEd; and Elizabeth Stringer, director of academics, Guildhall.
SMU (Southern Methodist University) is the nationally ranked global research university in the dynamic city of Dallas. SMU’s alumni, faculty and over 12,000 students in eight degree-granting schools demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit as they lead change in their professions, communities and the world.
About Simmons School of Education & Human Development
The Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development at SMU (Southern Methodist University) reflects the University’s vision of serving the most important educational needs of our city, region and nation, graduating students for successful careers in a variety of fields and providing educational opportunities beyond traditional degree programs. Recognized as a unique and transformative leader in education research, practice and policy, the School is committed to rigorous, research-driven programs that promote evidence-based, effective practices in education and human development.
Associated Press Includes SMU Simmons in List of Teacher Prep Programs Managing Changes Due to COVID-19
In a survey of teacher preparation programs around the country, the Associated Press asked how COVID-19 is impacting the way new teachers are being trained. SMU Simmons responded by saying professors are training students to use Google Classroom and also to evaluate education technology. Read the article here.
KRLD Radio Interviews Les Black on Impact of COVID in Holding Back Students
On KRLD Radio, Clinical Professor Les Black, Department of Education Policy and Leadership, talked about COVID’s impact on parents and taking steps to hold children back. Professor Black’s specialty is education policy and law.
He said holding back students would not be advisable, but ultimately it would be up to the parents. In most cases, parents and school administrators work together to determine what would be best for the student. The new Texas law, HB4545, which allows for accelerated instruction, would be important to consider. To hear his interview, click here.
Upcoming West Dallas STEM School Uses Virtual Space to Break Ground
As classes in the Dallas Independent School District conclude June 18, a new school in West Dallas gets ready to start. The Pre-K to 8 STEM School breaks ground virtually to celebrate its opening in mid-August.
In this video, the convener is Principal Marion Jackson, who highlights what students and their families can expect. The first group of students to study at the school will be seventh and eighth-graders.
The West Dallas STEM School, a Dallas ISD Transformation and Innovation School, is the result of more than three years of collaboration between the District, the Toyota USA Foundation, SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, and the West Dallas community.