InClass

How often do you walk out of professional learning a transformed educator? One teacher tells us how a recent experience with the Arizona K12 Center awakened her practice. Sydney Sutton-Liswith is the K-6 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) specialist at Fireside Elementary Scho

Mar 20, 2017

How often do you walk out of professional learning a transformed educator? One teacher tells us how a recent experience with the Arizona K12 Center awakened her practice.


Sydney Sutton-Liswith is the K-6 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) specialist at Fireside Elementary School in the Paradise Valley Unified School District. Raised by educators, she’s witnessed and lived high-quality teaching and learning. Therefore, the Arizona native says she continuously aims to advance her craft. To do so, she registered for the Art of Making: CREATE, Play, and Engineer in the world of STEAM during fall 2016.

The CREATE experience gives teachers the chance to embrace their inner student, step outside their classroom, participate as makers, and take hands-on learning to another level.

“I am always looking for ways to expand my STEM practice and experience. Little did I know how much this experience would change my life and my perspective on everything that I do and believe in,” Sutton-Liswith explains.

She happened upon the four-day learning experience by chance, without fully knowing what it would entail. To her surprise, the Loyola Marymount University alumna says stepping into the CREATE space was incredible, but the company made it even better.

“Having the opportunity to learn from so many seasoned professionals and educators that believe in the same mission made every moment so memorable and enjoyable. My classmates were from all different backgrounds, bringing unique and varied perspectives on STEM education to the discussion table,” she says.

In addition to having complete access to the 3-D printers, materials, and laser cutters, attendees participated in strategic project-based learning. Teachers created a unit to be used in their classroom setting. Brainstorm sessions, facilitator advice, and peer feedback shaped their final product, which was presented during the final day of the event.

“All of this combined widened my perspective on STEM pedagogy and taught me to better utilize others’ experiences and make professional connections as a means to inform my personal practice and journey as a STEM educator. This learning has translated to my classroom in countless ways I cannot even begin to describe,” she says.

After reviewing participant surveys, it was evident the professional learning opportunity proved valuable. Therefore, it will reoccur this summer. The Arizona K12 Center understands taking a day out of the classroom can be a challenge, let alone four. Good news: The Art of Making will be offered July 10-13 so teachers can rid the stress of creating substitute plans and freely come to absorb.

“Regardless of background, teaching experience, or exposure to PBL and STEM methodologies, there is something for all learners to take away. Not only that, the amount of learning that comes from your peers, teachers, and the CREATE staff is a transformative experience that all teachers should undergo if given the chance,” she says.

While a fun and engaging experience is superb, learning that reappears in teachers’ daily practice is a homerun. Sutton-Liswith uses wooden pieces she created during the training to augment the possibility of student learning in her school.

“In class, we learned about the six different types of simple machines, adding on each week until we were ready to design complex Rube Goldberg machines. In CREATE, I cut circular wheels for making pulleys, star-shaped pinwheels for making wheels and axles, and long planes for making ramps and levers. My students loved being able to interact with such unique and raw materials and cannot wait to begin helping me design materials for projects in the future,” she adds.

Seats are limited, so learn more and register now for the Art of Making: CREATE, Play, and Engineer in the World of STEAM.

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