13 months ago

2019 Highlights of Hope: Fall/Winter

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EDUCATION SCIENCE ON THE GRAND INSTITUTE ROLLS OUT THE RED CARPET FOR A TWO-DAY CONFERENCE FOCUSED ON INNOVATIVE EDUCATION More than 100 educators from across the United States visited Van Andel Institute for the annual Science on the Grand conference held in July. The two-day conference honored the teaching profession and provided guests with breakout sessions, discussions and keynote presentations with the goal of creating classroom culture that supports STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) content, and helps educators nurture their own curiosity for personal growth and enjoyment. The conference was designed and curated by the Institute’s expert team of educators to provide research-based and classroom-tested content that puts the needs of teachers front and center, and addresses content standards, as well as personal and professional development. Dr. J. Andrew Pospisilik, director of the Institute’s Center for Epigenetics, gave a keynote presentation during the event that highlighted the Institute’s work in epigenetics and outlined how epigenetics play a key role in human development and disease treatment. Pospisilik also addressed how teachers can better prepare students by providing them with the skills necessary to be successful in STEAM fields. New York Times best-selling author Dave Burgess gave another keynote entitled “Teach Like a Pirate” that showcased new ways teachers can increase student engagement, design wildly creative lessons, and create positive classroom experiences for their students. Science on the Grand is one of the many, unique ways the Institute engages with and supports teachers and helps them create classrooms where curiosity, creativity and critical thinking thrive. To learn more about VAI’s education programs, including teacher and student-focused events and materials, visit BLUE APPLE TEACHER – AUTHOR PAUL SOLARZ CREATES CLASSROOM EXPERIENCES WHERE STUDENTS TAKE THE LEAD Students in Paul Solarz’ classroom are on an adventure — learning together and discovering new concepts that shape their world. They are part of a new generation of students who are using project-based learning to collaborate, work creatively and think critically about solutions to complex problems. Solarz is a passionate advocate for project-based learning and for more than 20 years has inspired his students at Westgate Elementary School in Arlington Heights, Illinois, to approach the process of learning in new and exciting ways. In 2018, Solarz was approached by Van Andel Institute to help design and author two projects for the Institute’s Blue Apple initiative — a newly unveiled program that helps teachers facilitate inspiring learning experiences in their classrooms. One of Solarz’ projects, State of Sustainability, is designed to get students thinking about sustainable environmental practices and how these strategies can improve life in the state where the students live. State of Sustainability is one of 10 Blue Apple projects that are currently being offered to educators throughout the United States, and Solarz is confident that the Institute’s new initiative will give students and teachers the tools they need to solve real-world problems and develop a love of learning. “Blue Apple projects are easy to implement, yet go deep enough to make the class time spent on them extremely worthwhile — plus, they're a whole bunch of fun to teach,” Solarz said. “With Blue Apple, the Institute has created instructional experiences that engage and empower students, and make project-based learning fun and motivating.” (LEFT TO RIGHT) DAVE BURGESS GIVING KEYNOTE & SPEAKING DURING A BREAKOUT SESSION AT SCIENCE ON THE GRAND; TEACHERS WORK TOGETHER DURING CONFERENCE BREAKOUT SESSIONS; EVENT GUESTS MINGLE IN THE INSTITUTE'S LOBBY Solarz creates projects in his classroom that incorporate science, math, engineering, art and technology, and designs them in a way that gives students the space to ask their own questions and work collaboratively to make sense of what they discover. As an experienced educator, he has gained unique insights into the benefits of project-based learning and now believes it's one of the best ways to teach. “When teachers tell students what to do and what to think, we rob them of the process of learning, and I think our students need to be given trust and freedom to work on their own and with their peers in order to learn how to research information and solve problems,” Solarz said. “By experiencing things firsthand, learning becomes much more permanent than if it was just read in a textbook or heard in a lecture. That’s why my students are encouraged to complete experiments, conduct surveys and build models of the things they want to understand better.” Designed by teachers around the needs of students, Blue Apple makes project-based learning easy to implement, memorable and fun. Solarz thinks there is nothing better than students who are so immersed in their work that they forget they’re working. PAUL SOLARZ “Using the State of Sustainability project, my students created detailed infographics using statistics and data, and worked collaboratively as an entire class to create a book to share their research on our state’s sustainability regarding various natural resources,” Solarz said. “They were so excited to work on this project that they often gave up their lunch and recess in order to keep working together — and at the end of the day, learning just doesn’t get more authentic than that.” For information on how you can purchase a Blue Apple project for your classroom, or if you’re interested to learn more about Van Andel Institute’s project-based learning programs, visit 14 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 15

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