STEM instruction arrives in Yazoo

By JAMIE PATTERSON,

Two Yazoo County teachers are now equipped with the necessary training to promote STEM fields in their classrooms.

Thanks to annual training provided by the Mississippi Department of Transportation, instructors Shannon Prescott and Melanie Hardy received training in the Roadways Into Developing Elementary Students program.

RIDES was developed by MDOT in 2004 and is designed to improve STEM skills and prepare students in grades K-8 for the workforce of the future. Students utilize critical thinking skills to solve real world problems and learn about careers in the transportation industry, specifically civil engineering.

“With nearly 2.4 million STEM jobs projected to go unfilled in 2018 alone, it is important that we cater to students’ natural curiosities and expose them to STEM related concepts in a fun, yet thought provoking way,” said Hardy, a teacher at Yazoo County Middle School. “By exposing them to challenging, real world problems, students will learn to become thinkers and problem solvers. In doing so, hopefully all students despite race or gender will develop a passion for the sciences and pursue employment in a STEM related field.  Students who have been exposed to critical thinking and problem solving through STEM will be prepared to compete in the modern, technological workforce and on a global level.”

Prescott, a teacher at Benton Academy, said the training she received through the program will lead to her being a more effective classroom teacher.

“I think it's extremely important to promote STEM within the classroom,” Prescott said. “Our world is rapidly changing and especially in these academic areas. Technology has drastically changed how we all live our everyday lives and how students learn in a classroom setting as well. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are tightly woven together. Students need to be proficient in all of these disciplines to be prepared and successful in understanding and navigating the world around them both in the present and the future.”

The training allowed both teachers to learn about different age-appropriate, hands-on activities with emphasis on STEM. The program also showed how the activities can be fun as well.

“As a teacher with 23 years of experience in the middle school science classroom, I feel it is my duty and obligation to provide my students with a STEM education,” Hardy said. “I hope to inspire my students to become future scientists and engineers that solve many of our world’s problems such as disease, world hunger, and lack of clean drinking water.”

Prescott said her training will also help give students the necessary tools to be successful and competitive, particularly in the STEM fields.

“The career opportunities available in these areas have exploded in the last few decades,” she said. “This training will give our students the background they need to be able to excel in further educational avenues and future career endeavors.”

Hardy said she hopes her students will learn to think critically, solve problems and learn from their mistakes. Thanks to hands-on learning techniques, she will be taking her students to a higher level of learning.

“After attending the University of Mississippi’s Science Leadership Academy and the Mississippi Department of Transportation’s RIDES training this summer, I feel that I am more prepared to guide my students as we navigate through the new Mississippi College and Career-Readiness Standards and lead them to become future scientists and engineers that can change the world,” she said.