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VAEI producing Science on the Grand for teachers

June 6, 2018
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Gentry Lee
Gentry Lee. Courtesy Van Andel Education Institute

An inaugural conference on STEAM-related teaching is coming to Grand Rapids next month.

The Van Andel Education Institute, or VAEI, which is part of the Grand Rapids-based Van Andel Institute, is hosting Science on the Grand: A STEAM Conference on Inquiry-Based Instruction on July 16-17 at the institute’s downtown campus, at 333 Bostwick Ave. NE.

The conference takes place from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. both days, though additional sessions and events will be offered afterward.

The conference aims to equip K-12 teachers with the “skills, resources, confidence and competence to transform their science instruction” and help prepare students for jobs that don't yet exist.

The conference will provide concepts and practices that support students "as they become critical thinkers and creative problem solvers."

Taylor Mali, education advocate and author of “What Teachers Make,” will deliver the keynote address on July 16.

The second day of the conference will open with a keynote address by Gentry Lee, chief engineer for the Solar System Exploration Directorate at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, or JPL, in Pasadena, California.

The first day of the conference concentrates on classroom climate and culture. Sessions will guide teachers in creating a learning environment that is engaging, collaborative and "supportive of taking risks and learning from them," as well as provide teachers strategies for developing "scientific habits of mind," such as curiosity, creativity, critical thinking and perseverance.

The second day will focus on content that integrates science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. Sessions will be divided into narrow bands, so content is developmentally appropriate and relevant to each teacher. 

"In education, we often talk about addressing 'the whole child,' but with this conference, we want to address 'the whole teacher.'," said Terra Tarango, director and education officer, VAEI.

“The conference will help teachers establish a classroom culture to support STEAM instruction, provide rich standards-aligned content and classroom strategies and nurture teachers' own curiosity and personal growth."

Participants are also invited to participate in Pitch Tank, a competition intended to encourage creativity in the classroom. Attendees may submit ideas for how they would use $5,000 to transform their classrooms. Three finalists will be selected to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges on July 17. Winners will be awarded up to $5,000 to turn their ideas into reality.

Registration includes breakfast, lunch and dinner and a tour of New Holland Brewery’s Knickerbocker location to "learn the science of beer."

Registration also includes one year of access to NexGen Inquiry.

With the paid registration of a staff member, a principal from the same building may attend for free.

Registration is $200, and tickets can be purchased online.

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