Spreading the STEM Gospel in the UAEJuly 18, 2018
For Jayda Pugliese (PA ’16), summer vacation is a time to relax, catch up on reading, spend time with her family and recharge before school starts again in September.
But this year, Jayda’s summer to-do list also included riding a camel, shopping at the enormous Dubai Mall, and sharing her extensive experience as a STEM educator with public school teachers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Jayda was one of eight hand-picked educators to travel to the UAE in July 2018 with STEM Revolution, an organization that trains STEM teachers in the U.S. and abroad. She and her cohort delivered five intense days of professional development for local high school teachers, sharing concepts like the growth mindset, design thinking, and the engineering design process. In the UAE, educators talk about “STREAM” rather than “STEM”—science, technology, reading, engineering, arts and mathematics.
The STEM teachers held their classes in English, with translators available for the Arabic-speaking attendees who needed help understanding the more technical concepts. STEM Revolution provided the curriculum and presentation materials, although Jayda noted that she and the other instructors modified them for their audiences based on whether students had prior experience with the concepts. Jayda and two other teachers led their sessions in Ajman, at the country’s Ministry of Education; the rest taught in schools around the small country. Each afternoon, the group got together to debrief and plan for the following day.
Jayda found the conversations with the UAE educators very interesting. “They struggle with many of the same problems we do here in the U.S.,” she says. How do you get through the entire curriculum in a limited amount of classroom time? How do you bring innovative projects to your students while still covering all the content? While the UAE teachers don’t have the same kind of standardized testing as U.S. schools, the country does have a fairly rigid curriculum they’re expected to follow. Much of the discussion in the STEM Revolution training involved how to incorporate standards into STREAM projects to encourage innovation without sacrificing content.
Although the trip only lasted a week, Jayda and her fellow educators did have time to play tourist, exploring the sand dunes, riding camels and shopping for souvenirs (an Aladdin-like lamp for her husband, a stuffed camel for her son, and a traditional Arabic teapot for her own collection).
Although traveling by herself halfway around the world took Jayda far outside her comfort zone, she’s glad she went—and, schedules permitting, she’d happily do it again. “A lot of these teachers inspired me and gave me ideas I can use in my own school,” she says. “We’re all working toward the same goal: making our future better. Our students are the future, and they’re going to change the world.”
Don’t miss any new articles and updates from Milken Educator Awards: