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VSGC, ODU Offer Workshop for Education Specialists at Informal STEM Learning Environments

Photo of Joanna Garner Joanna Garner

Recognizing that STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education also takes place in venues outside the classroom and lab, the Virginia Space Grant Consortium (VSGC) and Old Dominion University will present a free professional development workshop May 19 for education specialists from museums, zoos, parks and historic sites across Virginia.

The highly interactive, daylong workshop, VINES (Virginia Informal Environments: Cultivating Vines of Commitment for STEM), is being offered by VSGC in collaboration with The Center for Educational Partnerships (TCEP) in ODU's Darden College of Education.

Joanna K. Garner, TCEP research associate professor, will serve as workshop facilitator. Garner is the mother of two school-age children who love to visit informal learning environments - museums, planetariums, aquariums, zoos, historical sites, gardens and state parks. As an experienced educator and frequent visitor to these sites, she said she was struck by the way that children's engagement with the environment was grounded in personal identity - their sense of who they are in relation to others, their past and their imagined future.

"Informal learning environments offer tremendous potential for educators and parents to have meaningful conversations with children about who they are and who they may become in our STEM-reliant society," Garner said.

Equipped with the knowledge that exploration and commitment toward STEM-related aspects of identity significantly impact the decision to pursue STEM-related career skills that are almost universally needed in today's society, Garner has drawn on cutting-edge research to develop program and exhibit enhancement strategies for this workshop that educators and parents can use in any informal learning environment.

Workshop participants will learn to harness the power of transformative learning experiences in order to get, keep and grow member and community commitment to their programs, summer camps and exhibits. Additionally, they will take away strategies and materials to promote enduring personal connections with and commitments to STEM as related to the mission and values of their organization.

The free workshop is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, 600 Butler Farm Road in Hampton, Va. Space is limited to 55 participants; those wishing to attend should register online by May 5 at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VINES.

For more information about this professional development opportunity, contact Priscilla Hill at 757-766-5210 or aphill@odu.edu.