NILES - One of the biggest challenges teachers face is preparing students for jobs that don't yet exist, a local education official said.
Further, educators need to encourage students to "think ahead," Brice Harris of the Trumbull County Educational Service Center said.
"We know by what has happened in the past that it's likely that what the students are learning in school will be outdated by the time they become job-seekers," Harris said. "For that reason, they need to become problem-solvers. They need to have the skills necessary to adapt to the future before it's here."
Tribune Chronicle / Virginia Shank
NASA education specialist Diane McElwain demonstrates how local teachers can use tools of modern technology to record information and use it to better instruct their students and meet the state’s problem-based learning standards.
For the past several months, TCESC has been working with NASA officials on a Space Act Agreement and recently launched the Trumbull County Educational Service Center STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Manufacturing) Academy powered by NASA.
A primary focus of the program is to bring problem-based learning into the classroom, which is an effort that Diane McElwain, a NASA education specialist, said NASA is equipped to do.
The workshop is one of several TCESC is offering as part of its 2012 Summer of Growth professional development program for Trumbull County educators.
The Ohio Department of Education defines problem-based learning as students working together to solve "ill-structured, open-ended, 'real world' problems." Students identify their resources, collect data, determine strategies and consider multiple options, with the goal being able to present an unique solution to the problem, according to the state.
"It's a learning process for teachers as well," McElwain said.
McElwain started working with a group of teachers from schools across Trumbull County on Monday. The daily sessions, most of which are held at the TCESC in Niles, are scheduled to conclude today.
However, TCESC officials said that following the initial roll-out, NASA will provide the group with ongoing support and training as part of the two-year professional development program.
This week the group of 10 teachers focused on learning about NASA's problem-based instruction units; NASA's BEST (Beginning Engineering, Science and Technology) Students; and NASA's instructional program.
On Thursday, the team went on a field trip to the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland to tour the facilities and attend presentations by some of NASA's education specialists.
Today the group is scheduled to go over STEAM Academy opportunities, classroom resources, and work on the completion of a problem-based instructional unit.
"It's all about making the connections for the kids so they're not just learning bits and pieces," said participant Susan Olive, who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade science at Mathews Jr. High. "They can see the importance of learning different components and thinking things through."
Other school districts represented include Weathersfield, Warren, Niles, Bristol, Champion and Brookfield.
Harris said, "It's a challenge because in many cases the kids' visions of what they want to do in the future is limited by what they see now. This is really about helping them get beyond that.''
McElwain said, "NASA's goal is to inspire the next general of explorers.''