100Kin10 Teacher Forum 2021 Share-Out-Call Summaries

About the 100Kin10 Teacher Forum

The 100Kin10 Teacher Forum helps us keep a pulse on what’s happening “on the ground” in classrooms and schools across America. Members organize STEM teachers in their communities  and hold conversations to gather information about what STEM teachers are hearing, seeing, and experiencing. These insights are then shared with 100Kin10 and used to inform how we address the Grand Challenges. We also share what we’re hearing through the Teacher Forum broadly with the 100Kin10 network and the field in the hopes that these insights will have broader resonance.


On June 22 2021, we kicked off our series of Teacher Forum share-out calls. This share-out call came during an especially reflective moment in the year, as teachers transitioned into summer break after the most unprecedented school year we’ve collectively ever faced. Teachers on the call shared their reflections on the realities of this past year--both the joys and the challenges--and their hopes for the future.

1. COVID was a forcing mechanism for innovation, and it would be beneficial for some of these changes to stick.

“This year, we learned that if something isn’t working, you can always come up with a plan B. But what we learned this year might go out the window next year.” 

In response to the pandemic, educators were forced to adapt to an entirely new way of teaching almost overnight. As teachers, administrators, students, and families learned to do everything differently this past year, new ways of thinking emerged that previously had not been explored. For example, one teacher shared that the pandemic generated energy around STEM, and students were able to connect to the content in more meaningful ways because it was grounded in their real-world experience. At one teacher’s school, the pandemic was also the first time that teachers were given paid collaboration time. Other teachers shared that hybrid environments allowed for more 1:1 time with students and more personal connections with them. Despite these innovations, many teachers expressed concerns that we might lose promising new ways of teaching and learning when school returns this fall, as there might be a tendency to return to pre-pandemic norms. 

2. Professional development for STEM--especially science--is often inconsistent or difficult to access. 

“There are a lot of teachers that need science support, but that’s often the last thing that we get support for.”

Teachers agreed that one of the primary drivers for better STEM teaching is relevant professional learning, but this is often difficult to come by. In this past year, materials for STEM--like manipulatives for foundational math--were provided though not always accompanied by professional learning. Additionally, professional learning takes a lot of time, which often just isn’t accounted for. Many teachers shared that they and their colleagues are eager to learn as much about STEM as they can and want options for good professional learning. Additionally, one teacher shared that she and many teachers she knows are willing to serve as instructional coaches to support others’ professional learning, and all they need is adequate time to do that kind of coaching. What would it look like if we invested not only dollars, but time, in high-quality professional learning options for all STEM teachers? 

3. Teachers and students are craving STEM curricula that are flexible and hands-on. 

The pace of curriculum is often limiting, but classroom experience can change by making curriculum more flexible.” 

Several teachers shared that the need for adaptation during COVID revealed just how rigid and prescriptive many STEM curricula can be. With so much learning happening at home this past year, teachers got creative and focused on real-life connections to STEM. One teacher shared that their students did science research on active satellites. Another facilitated a science DNA extraction lab in partnership with Astrazeneca. Across the board, both teachers and students found ways to tie STEM content to the pandemic and real world around them. Looking ahead, what would it look like for all STEM learning and curricula to be hands-on, adjustable, and firmly connected to real life experiences? What would it look like to trust teachers to develop and adapt these kinds of lessons?