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New STEM Teacher Network to Support Data Science Education

Vernier Science Education officials say their new program could accelerate STEM education past pre-pandemic levels and eventually change or at least improve the way those subjects are taught.

STEM science, technology, engineering, math illustration concept showing four separate tiles with the letters "s," "t," "e," and "m" above them and people and objects on them like a gear wheel and microscope that relate to STEM subjects.
A new professional development network for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) teachers organized by Vernier Science Education, an ed-tech company based in Oregon, is offering new tools, peer networking opportunities and best practices for teaching students about data collection.

According to a news release last week, members of the Vernier Trendsetters Community will receive training from Vernier representatives and other educators involved with the program, and they'll be eligible for funds to cover the costs of attending and making presentations at future conferences.

Applications for the Trendsetters Community program will be accepted on a rolling basis, but the deadline for the first cohort of teachers is Nov. 30, with the selections to be announced in January. The full program will launch in the fall of 2024.

"Our goal with the Vernier Trendsetters Community is to bring together like-minded educators who are passionate about having an impact on the next generation of informed citizens, problem solvers and community contributors through innovative hands-on instruction," Vernier CEO John Wheeler said in a public statement. "As Trendsetters, STEM educators will have the opportunity to collaborate and share best practices, all while continuing to learn new ways to engage students with data collection technology. We look forward to kicking off this program and supporting — and recognizing — the first cohort of teachers."

Vernier tools are used in more than 100 countries, according to the news release.

As examples of data collection methods in STEM subjects, Vernier spokeswoman Olga Vargas mentioned the use of a C02 sensor to measure temperature changes, calculate heat extraction rates, count the number of cells breaking in the process and gain a better understanding of how gases expand. Or, in math, she said one might apply a motion detector to measure time and distance on a slope and teach the concept of acceleration.

“Take the data and understand the data,” she said. “These are critical-thinking skills. Math is the universal language. When students understand where the math comes from, they understand the concepts. This aligns really well for the next-generation science standards.”

Vargas said the goal of this program is to accelerate data collection instruction beyond pre-pandemic levels. Many STEM teachers in the U.S., whether or not they began their careers during the pandemic, are still fairly young, she said, so this is an opportunity for Vernier to better connect with a new generation of educators who may have entered the field from more vocation-centered training programs, such as STEM education boot camps or certificate-based courses, and who can collectively work with ed-tech companies to change how STEM subjects are taught, with a particular emphasis on data collection.

“They’ll use our tools, and will help us create new ones,” Vargas said Monday. “We want their help in building up this program. Vernier was founded by teachers. We want to continue that.”

Interested teachers can review the eligibility requirements and submit an application on the Vernier Trendsetters Community page.
Aaron Gifford has several years of professional writing experience, primarily with daily newspapers and specialty publications in upstate New York. He attended the University at Buffalo and is based in Cazenovia, NY.