Three Questions with the Bay Area Discovery Museum

September 19, 2016

Our September “Steal This Session" explored strategies partner organizations use to alleviate elementary teachers’ anxiety around STEM subjects. Steal This Sessions offer a platform for partners to share diverse approaches to addressing a shared challenge, followed by conversation about where we as a field go from here. We asked presenters Anastassia Radeva and Cami Gordon to share more about the Bay Area Discovery Museum’s work in advance of the session.

Watch a recording of the webinar here.

1. Tell us about the Bay Area Discovery Museum’s work supporting elementary STEM teachers. What makes it unique?

All of our museum programming is oriented at the intersection of STEM and creativity. We want all visitors - both school visitors and general visitors - to experience STEM learning in a playful and creative way.

What makes our work unique is that we create opportunities for teachers to work with engineering and the design process in diverse ways:
* We have distilled the “traditional” design process into a developmentally appropriate version that we use with both preschool and elementary school teachers and students.
* Teachers not only observe the design process modeled with their own students during programming but also experience it as adults through design sprints in facilitated PD workshops.
* In addition, the Center for Childhood Creativity (CCC), the full-fledged research arm of our organization, investigates creativity for learners young and old in order to create research-backed tools for educators. Two important resources coming out of the CCC include the CREATE framework for developing creative environments and the 7 Components of Creativity.

We do this from our beautiful location at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge on 7.5 acres of National Park land, which makes the experience even more unique and special for teachers.

2. What strategy do you recommend partners “steal” to better support elementary teacher’s STEM expertise?

We’ll share more in the “Steal This” webinar, but here is one tactic we’ve used to great success: We have found that it is difficult to introduce the design thinking process through a challenge or problem that is deeply personal and applicable to the real world because teachers get bogged down and constrained by the “real-worldness” of possible solutions. By using an outlandish or “out there” challenge, such as a zombie apocalypse emergency preparedness plan, teachers are less likely to be wedded to solutions, which is great practice for ideation, prototyping, and testing. Plus it makes things more fun!

3. Great work stands on the shoulders of giants. What individuals, resources, or organizations have you learned the most from when it comes to this topic?

In order to create our age-appropriate design process, we researched and integrated professional, adult-oriented processes from the Stanford University d.School, IDEO design firm, and Harvard University’s Agency by Design. We also rely upon and work closely with the Center for Childhood Creativity, our research arm mentioned above, to ensure that our programming is based upon best practices in the field of early childhood education, creativity, and hands-on STEM learning. For further resources, check out the following links from the organizations we based our design process on:
* IDEO: “Design Thinking for Educators Toolkit” is a great resource for PD or ongoing personal growth as a teacher which provides educators with a clear structure by which they can apply the design process to challenges within their classroom and school environment
* Agency by Design: “Thinking Routines” are exercises and strategies for engaging in maker education experiences
* Stanford d.School: the K-12 Lab Network provides classroom activities and tips for teaching design thinking to students.