The New York State Schools Boards Association (NYSSBA) recently honored Questar III BOCES with the association’s Champions of Change award for spearheading an innovative collaboration that led to three Rensselaer County school districts creating courses that will help students develop the skills that the region’s growing video game development industry seeks. The Champions of Change award recognizes innovative programs in school districts across the state and pays tribute to those institutions that create them.
Questar III’s teacher professional development program, the STEM Research Institute, partnered with Vicarious Visions, a creator of well-known video and computer games to offer teachers the opportunity to learn about the video game design industry and collaborate in developing courses that align with industry skills sets. These skills include programming, coding, English Language Arts, creative writing, art, 3D modeling, and physics.
Upon completing their two summers of work, teachers not only developed courses for their home districts but also created a website for fellow educators to use as a resource to introduce this curriculum in their classrooms.
NYSSBA’s recognition of this effort is just one example of the innovative approach that Questar III’s STEM Research Institute takes in developing collaborative opportunities between STEM professionals and educators to benefit student learning. The program places high school STEM teachers in research institutions and STEM businesses around the region to work under the mentorship of professional researchers and professionals, participating in research and work activities that help educators understand how their curriculum is applied in real-world settings. The goal is to develop STEM curriculum that will both educate and inspire students to pursue further STEM education and pursue careers in these fields.
“We wish to thank everyone who has made this project possible, from the teachers in Averill Park, East Greenbush and Schodack and staff at Vicarious Visions to the staff who coordinate the program here and partners like the Rensselaer County Industrial Development Agency and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute/NYS Empire State Development (through the NYS Digital Gaming Hub). We sincerely appreciate NYSSBA’s recognition and support of this professional development initiative, which is part of our larger efforts to support STEM education throughout our region,” said Dr. Gladys I. Cruz, District Superintendent of Questar III BOCES.
The STEM Research Institute, launched in 2014, is modeled after a successful Columbia University science teacher professional development program. It provides an opportunity for secondary school teachers of science, mathematics, engineering or technology (STEM) to work for two summers under the mentorship of researchers or STEM industry professionals, participating in authentic scientific research or working in STEM businesses related to the content they teach. In addition to the hands-on workplace experiences and engagement with STEM professionals, educators dedicate one day each week during the summer to share their experiences with colleagues and collaborate to create lesson plans for their classrooms.
Upon completion of the program, teachers have shared how these workplace experiences have exponentially increased their understanding of the modern STEM workplace and have impacted their classrooms in multiple ways, including changes in instructional practices, increased student engagement and higher levels of academic achievement. Students are introduced to curriculum that are based on real world, real time STEM workplace applications, learning how concepts in the classroom are relevant to research and STEM work resulting in increased student interest in STEM college and career pathways
Since its inception, the program has partnered with and/or received support from a variety of recognizable institutions including NYS Wadsworth Laboratories, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, SUNY Poly and Albany College of Pharmacy as well as Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, IBM, Global Foundries, National Grid, the Center for Economic Growth, General Electric and Vicarious Visions.
Please visit https://www.questar.org/services/educational/school-improvement/stem-research-institute/ for more information.