Congratulations Max Brooks - NASA Outstanding STEM teacher award winner!

We were so proud to learn that one of our favorite SmartLab Facilitators, Max Brooks, was selected NASA District of Columbia Space Grant Consortium Outstanding STEM Teacher!  

It is hard to imagine anyone more deserving.

Max has been the Facilitator at Friendship Public Charter School’s Woodridge SmartLab since its installation in 2004.  He has been a leader in the integration of technology in learning at Woodridge, and throughout the Friendship group of public charter schools.  And Max’s influence goes well beyond his local leadership.  He has inspired and been a role model for so many SmartLab Facilitators.  He has innovated instructional methods and pioneered technology-enriched learning techniques that have been replicated in schools throughout the county. 

One notable example is his pioneering of student ePortfolios.  Max’s models, which were the basis for the system now used in SmartLabs across the country, enable robust documentation of student work throughout a learner’s academic career - documentation that is portable, accessible and understandable by students, teachers and parents, and provides an authentic basis for assessment of formative learning.

We asked Max to talk a little bit about his experience as a SmartLab Facilitator and his selection for this prestigious award:

"I am so thankful to be selected as the 1st place winner in the NASA DCSGC Outstanding STEM Teacher Awards! Preparing the young minds of today to be thinkers and problem solvers is my passion. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines provide the fun, engaging challenges and opportunities that our kids need to be leaders in the 21st century. I consider it a privilege to work as an educator, but a true blessing to be recognized for my efforts.
Although I finished my undergraduate career with quite a few science and engineering courses under my belt and a Math minor, I ultimately entered the field of education with a degree in Spanish. I quickly learned that to teach any discipline effectively, learners need have deeply authentic experiences. Immersion is the best route. One of the true strengths of a learning environment like the SmartLab is that it is a place where STEM thrives! 
From the moment kids and adults walk in the door, they realize that there is something special about the room. Everywhere they look, everywhere they move they are surrounded by resources that promote inquiry and authentic learning. Whether it is building and programming robots, making music and videos, or developing portfolios of academic and extracurricular activities, learning is always  taking place. Moreover, learners are always sharing their knowledge and skills. It is in our nature to want to learn and teach each other and that is what will help us solve our local and global issues of today and the future.
I consider my role of SmartLab Facilitator to be the person responsible for drawing in each and every stakeholder (students, parents, staff, administrators, the community) and helping them find a reason to stay engaged in education. By providing a high-quality education we can hope to achieve a better world. If STEM is the pathway to that goal, then I am blessed to have a SmartLab as my means of transportation."
Thanks Max, we share your passion and are proud to be your partner in this journey!
SmartLab Facilitator Max Brooks with Woodridge student

A New Approach to STEM Education

There’s a broad consensus that American education needs increased emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).  Surprisingly though, there’s little clarity or consensus on the best way to address this need.   

The easiest approach is to turn to our existing math and science departments and ask them to do more.  An increasingly common approach is to add a pre-engineering program to the curriculum offering.   But is this the answer?  How will “more of the same” generate more interest in technical disciplines – particularly among young women and minorities?  How will an enhanced course offering, appealing primarily to those who are already our best math and science students, meet the broader goal of preparing all learners to compete in a global economy?  Given prevalent attitudes towards math and science among today’s learners, how will we reconcile this emphasis with drop-out rates that are already unacceptably high? 

And where is the “T”?  Will this approach be more successful in integrating technology into the learning process than the existing efforts?

We believe that all learners need a solid foundation in STEM for college and career success.  We believe that an integrated, project-based approach to STEM best prepares young learners for the way STEM is actually applied in the workplace.  And we believe that language arts, social studies and fine arts provide critical relevancy to STEM; and it is through these connections that we generate a broader interest in STEM than exists today.

Read more:  STEM For All Students:  Beyond the Silos

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