New STEM Professional Development Program Is Launched in Dallas

A new program to equip North Texas K-12 teachers with the skills to instruct their students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) has been launched in Dallas. By the end of the year, more than 160 teachers will be involved in the hands-on professional development program, the Kosmos Energy STEM Teacher Institute, organized by the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.

Nearly 130 teachers at every stage of their careers will attend a four-day Summer Academy held at a school in the Dallas area. That will be followed up by five weekend sessions throughout the school year. The teachers involved will get free educational materials from the museum, the chance to be involved in special events and mentorship opportunities and continuing professional credit for the work.

Unlike most professional development programs that typically divide teachers up by grade level, the Kosmos Energy STEM Teacher Institute is organized by the experience level of the teachers and their comfort with science subjects — pre-service teachers (those who are still in training and have no classroom experience yet), novice teachers, advanced teachers and mentor teachers.

The three-year program organized by the museum is funded in part by a $450,000 grant from Kosmos Energy, an oil and gas company, and $150,000 from the Institute of Museum and Library Science.

Museum CEO Colleen Walker said the program is vital to North Texas because Texas elementary school educators are not required to be certified in math and science. Since state testing in science doesn't start until the fifth grade, STEM subjects traditionally have not been emphasized in early grades. Even that much of a slow start can lead to students not maintaining interests in the subjects as they continue their educational careers.

"As a result, U.S. students are falling dangerously behind in STEM subjects, creating serious concerns for workforce development in companies and industries where the U.S. was once a leader," Walker said.

For the last four years, Perot Museum staffers have offered Dallas Independent School District teachers professional training with its Leaders in Science program. That program will now be folded into the Kosmos Energy STEM Teacher Institute.

"Leaders in Science is a tremendous program that delivered strong results and taught us a great deal, but the Kosmos Energy STEM Teacher Institute takes that concept to a much higher and broader level," Walker said.

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.