STEM, What To Do When You Don’t Offer It?!

My current school is phenomenal. We do a really great job of teaching to the whole child and making sure the over arching needs of students are met, and met comprehensively. However, there is one glaringly obvious hole that we are all aware of and working on at present, and that is a lack of STEM focus in the upper school. Our lower school and even the middle school does a nice job of implementing STEM focus and strategies into curriculum but as the child moves up in education, the rigor of the content obviously increases therefore reducing the time available to focus on things that aren’t directly related to content. So, I have been brainstorming and wondering what might be a good temporary fix until we are ready to implement something more permanent and here is what I came up with. A proposal for a STEM Research club for interested students. That being said, I don’t think the only demographic that I want to hit are the “interested” students, in fact, the ones I want to approach the most are the ones that seemingly don’t care about about science or math at all.

Here is my club proposal for the Administration:

STEM Science Research Club 

The purpose of the STEM Science Research Club is to give students an opportunity to actually experience science without reading it from a book or performing prescribed labs as is often the case when time and curricular scope are factors.

The STEM club will give the students the opportunity to develop their own interests and then design experiments around those interests. The majority of students do not have this opportunity prior to an upper college level science class and it is my belief that the more experience students have with actual research, the broader their interests in the science field will be.

My goal would be to expose the students to the many disciplines of science through lab experience and have them begin to develop their own questions that they want to address through research. Some possible exploratory labs include:

  • DNA extraction from human epithelial cells
  • DNA fragmentation with Restriction Enzymes
  • Gel electrophoresis
  • Commensal bacterial isolation and growth
  • Bacterial identification through the gram – staining process
  • Antibiotic exposure and resistance of bacteria
  • Microbial water purification
  • Use of the 3D printer
  • Manipulation and creation of robots
  • Basic coding practices
  • Circuits

I would also like to get the students involved in some working labs at MCV and VCU to give them an opportunity to see how a college lab functions. As well as have the students spend time with research scientists to talk about their areas of study and the processes of grant writing and funding solidification.

A long term goal of this club would be for the students to participate in the INTEL ISEF (International Science & Engineering Fair) which is the largest pre-college level science research platform for students to share their data with science professionals.

If, after reading through this post, you see any glaring absences of components that make up a really great science club, please feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments. All suggestions are welcome. Thanks!

Where There Be Dragons

I am including the following information about best practices training in International Experiential Education. If you are fortunate enough to work at a school that will pay for your professional development, or you can write a grant for the funds, this program is amazing and the organization, Where There Be Dragons is phenomenal. Check them out at:

Teaching is an art.
Expand your practice

Join us for a Best Practices Training 
in International Experiential Education

Dates: July 1-15, 2015
Tuition: 2,990
Dates: August 2-13, 2015
Tuition: 2,420

Ideal for teachers or administrators who work with students on field-based 
programming in global education. Each training module includes: 

– Proactive and reactive risk management strategies

– Intentional course design and curriculum-mapping

– Facilitation techniques that encourage deep student engagement

View complete listing of Educator Courses

Questions about Dragons Educator Courses? We would love to hear from you.
Please reach out to our Director of School Partnerships and Professional Programming, Simon Hart:

For scholarship information, email

What Does Global Education Look Like?

Below is an interview with Kaitlin Fisher, the new Program Development Associate at Global Weeks. Her journey is that of adventure and searching, one that I can most certainly relate with. I can also say, emphatically, that to have a focus and desire to implement Global Education into your classroom, one does not need to pack up, head overseas, and leave your life behind for a big chunk of time. While that is a wonderful experience, and one that I recommend for everyone at some point in their lives, it is not a necessary experience needed to be able to adequately impart the importance of a global education onto your students.

Reflecting on my Journey to Global Education

On this final day of 2014, snow falls outside my childhood home in Upstate New York where I’ve spent the holiday season. It’s been ten years since I moved away from this place to begin my journey as an educator, and I remember packing my bags and driving to Warren Wilson College like it was yesterday.

Leading a women's backpacking trip at Warren Wilson College

As an undergrad, I studied Outdoor Leadership and Psychology. I learned about safely using the wilderness as a classroom, working with ambiguity to turn unplanned events into teachable moments, and perhaps most importantly the necessity of reflection in experiential education – for both students and educators.

I went on to work for a number of wilderness organizations including the North Carolina Outward Bound School and Eagle’s Nest Foundation, and I loved instructing courses, training staff, and spending days on end in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina with incredible students and colleagues. I loved providing opportunities for students to push the limits of their comfort zones and realize their potential outside the constructs of a traditional classroom.

My career aspirations expanded when I became the Program Director of the Hante Adventures Program and began planning wilderness programs overseas. I sent students to Spain, Australia, Costa Rica and Ecuador, as well as to domestic locations like Alaska and Utah. I have always had a deep sense of wanderlust and a desire to learn through experiencing other cultures and ways of life, but it wasn’t until I began developing relationships with our partners abroad that I realized I needed to go and experience other parts of  the world for myself. When my contract with Eagle’s Nest Foundation ended in 2011, I booked one-way flights to Spain and my husband and I set off on an open-ended adventure of our own. We called it Two Backpacks. One World., and we blogged about our experiences along the way.


We used a website called Help Exchange to connect with people in need of volunteers, and we moved through twelve countries in Europe, the United Kingdom, Southeast Asia, and the South Pacific over a year by working in exchange for room and board. I met students from around the world who were taking a “gap year,” a completely new concept to me. The more people I spoke with, the more passionate I became about the idea of students taking a gap year between high school and college to expand their worldviews and learn about themselves as citizens of the world.

When I moved back to the States and landed in Portland, Oregon, I knew wanted to do global education work, but I wasn’t sure in what capacity. I joined the advisory board of Casa Verde Connects, an organization offering service-based gap year opportunities in rural Nicaragua. A friend told me about SIT Graduate Institute’s Master’s Degree in International Education, and after a conversation with the chair of the department I submitted my application. A few months later, I packed up my belongings once again and moved to Brattleboro, Vermont for the on-campus phase of my degree, where I studied design and evaluation of global education programs, intercultural communication, policy, and strategic planning. I was even able to do a month-long independent study in Guatemala, where a friend and I created a mini-documentary for a volunteer run trekking organization called Quetzaltrekkers that uses profits to support a school that aims to get children off the streets and into the education system.

Showing our mini-documentary "Hike Mountains, Help Kids"

I’m now in the practicum phase of my degree as the Program Development Associate here at Global Weeks. Looking back on the past ten years and looking forward on the year ahead, I know my work will continue to evolve. My pedagogical approach, however, will always be experiential – fostering environments where students can challenge themselves and their perspectives.

On this final day of 2014, as another year draws to a close and we set intentions and goals for 2015, I believe it is more important than ever to take time to really reflect. As we become increasingly tethered to devices that connect us to a constant stream of information, it becomes increasingly hard to find time to pause and look inward. May we all make the space to do just that as we move into a new year.

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” ― John Dewey