Jefferson staff attends conference with top STEM schools



From Nov. 2 through Nov. 5, nine Jefferson staff members attended NCSSS and visited STEM high schools in Georgia. “About nine of us got to go: Dr. Scott, Dr. Kapoor, Mr. Arthur, Ms. Lippman, myself, Ms. Russell, Ms. Applin, Mrs. Seavey, and Mr. Bass. Then they presented,” Jefferson principle Dr. Ann Bonitatibus said. “One of the big takeaways that I had from the conference this year was something that one of the principals of a brand new STEM school in Atlanta coined: STEMpathy.”

Grace Sharma, Copy Editor

From Nov. 2 through Nov. 5, nine Jefferson staff members attended a National Consortium of Secondary STEM Schools (NCSSS) conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Teachers from top STEM schools around the country attended and gave presentations on various topics. 

The following Friday, Nov. 11, Jefferson staff came together to hear from the nine staff members on things they found interesting and innovative at the NCSSS conference. 

“There are about 250 teachers from across the United States who are able to give ideas of just about teaching styles,” principal Dr. Ann Bonitatibus said. “One teacher talked about how he has figured out how to do project-based learning and CS classes in a way that students can gauge the amount of work that they’d like to do and set achievement goals for themselves.”

Ideas such as those can then be implemented into Jefferson curriculum and teaching methods. For example, computer science teacher Malcolm Eckel has been experimenting with a similar teaching style at Jefferson. 

“[Eckel] has been experimenting for the past two years with CS courses and this other teacher sat in the session and has been doing it for about five to seven years, and he kind of found the secret sauce to something,” Dr. Bonitatibus said. “So I was emailing Mr. Eckel, like, ‘Hey, you may want to get in touch with this teacher from this South Carolina STEM school and see what his ideas are.’”

The nine Jefferson representatives also got to visit Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology, ranked the top high school in Georgia

“[Gwinnett] senior research is very similar [to Jefferson], but they had these great ideas where it’s about sustainability,” Dr. Bonitatibus said. “They reuse a lot of the materials and supplies rather than buying new ones. Then in their senior research labs, if you’re building something in a prototyping lab, you’re building something that’s going to either serve the school or IBET [Integrated Biology, English, and Technology] at Jefferson, for example.”

Bonitatibus’s biggest takeaway from the NCSSS conference was a term coined by a principle of a new STEM school in Georgia: STEMpathy. 

“So many times in STEM schools, everybody is so concerned about the latest, greatest project to do, but is it even worth doing?” Dr. Bonitatibus said. “The example that he gave was in one of the research classes, [students] had to build a boat out of concrete. That’s a really interesting design challenge, right, but who’s it gonna serve right now? How are we looking at the world around us and really giving back and for spending time and resources in it?”