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‘More than textbooks’

STEM education program woos spring graduate from dietetics career

special feature: Class of 2020

Part of a special feature celebrating and recognizing the Class of 2020 at Memorial.

By Angela Hunt

Eleven newly graduated Faculty of Education students have something new and unique to offer.

Stephanie Morgan
Photo: Submitted

Stephanie Morgan is one of those 11. The group of students are graduates of the faculty’s bachelor of education (primary/elementary) as a second degree conjoint with certificate in STEM education program – a program so innovative in Canada it called Ms. Morgan from her full-time career as a registered dietitian to teach primary/elementary children.

“I chose this field because I was certain I wanted to be a teacher and not because I needed a job,” said Ms. Morgan. “It was something I considered for a while. When I discovered the STEM education program, I immediately knew it was where I needed to be.”

STEM education

Ms. Morgan and her classmates are paving the way in this forward-thinking teaching approach – the first of its kind in the country – made possible with support from the Hibernia Management and Development Company Ltd.

STEM education is an innovative approach to education with an emphasis on the incorporation of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but not in the traditional sense.

“It is a way of reframing the way you think and teach, by learning all curriculum outcomes from the world around you,” said Ms. Morgan, who is from St. John’s.

Having had more than 100 days of experiential learning in a classroom setting at two local elementary partner schools, as well as a community experience and multiple STEM learning opportunities around topics such as robotics, coding, growth mindsets and maker-spaces as part of the program, Ms. Morgan has had ample opportunities to explore exactly how STEM education plays out in the classroom.

“STEM education gives students a chance to experience failure in a controlled setting.” — Stephanie Morgan

One example is a reading of the children’s story, Three Billy Goats Gruff, to a class of Grade 1 students.

When Ms. Morgan and her students reached the part of the story where the billy goats reach a bridge but are unable to cross because of a fearsome troll, an opportunity for the students to discuss STEM-related solutions to the dilemma presented itself.

“After we had discussed some potential solutions, we put them into action to see how rational they were, and that’s where they learned that cardboard and paper-based watercrafts were not the answer, but plastic and tinfoil could do the job,” she said.

“STEM education gives students a chance to experience failure in a controlled setting. They have the opportunity to try things and if they don’t work, they can try something else.”

Stephanie Morgan and her STEM education classmates.
Photo: Submitted

Numbers and words

People often refer to themselves as exclusively word people or numbers people, but Ms. Morgan is eager to show her future students that they are both.

“Everybody is a math learner and everybody is word learner, it’s just reframing the way you think about it and, as teachers, guiding students through their learning. It’s so much more than textbooks.”

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