Children's Engineering Conference draws teachers from across the nation to the Star City

By Erin Brookshier - Virginia Today Reporter

ROANOKE (WSLS10)-- More than 700 teachers from across the Commonwealth and nationwide are out of the classroom and in the Star City. During the two-day Children's Engineering Convention they learn new ways to add math, science and engineering into everyday lesson plans.

The teachers represent nearly every elementary school in the State of Virginia, as well as educators from 12 other states along the East Coast. They'll be learning lessons that their students can expect to see in the coming weeks and months.

For Roanoke City students, that STEM-based learning is already a reality-- as this marks the first year that every student in the city is learning how to use coding technology. For Roanoke City teachers at the conference, it's giving them a new way to teach those lessons-- while incorporating other important subjects as well.

"Just allowing them to go above the level that the standards say we have for specific grade levels during the school year," says Robin Carpenter, the Elementary Math Specialist for Roanoke City. "It allows them to broaden their horizons and go different paths that we can't necessarily do during the school year."

To ensure these teachers are understanding the lessons and can take them back to their own classrooms, they're getting involved in the projects themselves. They're participating in the same engineering projects or science experiments that their own students may be doing in the near future.

"You sign up for different sessions to attend and actually get to do the projects as a teachers, so when you go back to the classroom to implement them-- you understand how they work," says Tina Coffey, the Instructional Technology Research Teacher at Fort Lewis Elementary School.

A majority of the presentations and lesson ideas are actually set up by other teachers-- Coffey will be presenting her own workshop this week. WSLS10 was at Fort Lewis Elementary School as she worked with 5th graders on an engineering and STEM-based project. The students took everyday objects, like a hollow tube, masking tape and paper towel rolls, and were tasked with creating a ramp for a marble to roll through.

While it looks like a lot of fun, Ms. Coffee says all of the engineering projects like this also tie back to the Standards of Learning that students are tested on each year.

"Right now, the students are building marble mazes that they will measure and time how long it takes their marble to get from the top to the bottom," she explains. "They're using that to calculate mode, median and mean-- which ties to the math skills they need to learn."

It's a way to take the lessons students are learning on paper-- and bring them to life.

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