Thursday, November 19, 2015

Regional STEM Education Center: Teaching the Teacher

Planning is underway for the second annual STEM Teacher Academy to be held during summer 2016 at Bloomsburg University. The academy’s first session gave regional PreK-12 teachers new skills for their classrooms, with a focus on developing strategies to infuse Inquire-Based Teaching (IBT) into their science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curriculum. Sixteen teachers from 11 regional school districts participated in this intensive training, which was a collaborative effort between Dr. Todd Hoover, associate professor for Teaching and Learning and course instructor, and Dr. Kimberly Bolig, director of the Regional STEM Education Center, as the enrollment, logistics and facility coordinator.

The teachers spent the first week of the academy at the Da Vinci Science Center in Allentown, recognized as one of America’s best programs for educators. Its professional programs are Act 48-approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Dr. David Smith, senior director of science and strategic initiatives for the Da Vinci Science Center and recipient of the National Science Teachers Association’s Distinguished Informal Science Educator in 2014, and Ms. Karen Knecht, director of education and exhibits at the Da Vinci Science Center since 2010, comprised the center’s professional development team. Participants in the STEM Teacher Academy were trained using IBT curriculum developed by San Francisco’s Exploratorium Teacher Institute. They interacted with exhibits, engaged in hands-on classroom activities, and shared teaching strategies. Dr. Hoover oversaw the week of training and coordinated information with the rest of the course.

Dr. Hoover continued to instruct participants in IBT methodology through the creation of lesson plans and curriculum during the second week of the academy, held on BU’s campus. In addition, the participants received a full day of training on The Power of Micromessages, provided by National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE). Micromessages are defined as conscious and unconscious words and actions, such as facial expressions, gestures or tone of voice that, over time, can affect students’ self-concept or self-efficacy and influence career choice. NAPE developed a research-based professional development program for educators that employs micromessages to improve classroom pedagogy and increase the enrollment, retention, performance, and completion of underrepresented students in nontraditional careers. This inclusive professional development solution is designed to help educators address specific school needs related to equitable learning environments, student academic success and readiness to pursue high-wage, high-skill, and high-demand careers.

In evaluations conducted at the end of the STEM Teacher Academy, participants expressed appreciation for the academy’s organization, content level, and professional development opportunity. One participant stated it was “definitely one of the best professional development experiences I’ve had.” Additional evaluation was provided through student reflection papers. Students were graded on their ability to incorporate IBT into their curriculum through their final project and received three college credits from BU upon successful completion of the academy.

Bloomsburg University and the Regional STEM Education Center received a grant from the Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Corporation to partially cover the cost for the Teacher STEM Academy.

 — Kimberly Bolig, Director, Regional STEM Education Center 
and Todd Hoover, Associate Professor, Teaching and Learning

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

McDowell Institute: What is Mental Health First Aid for Youth?

BU’s McDowell Institute is becoming increasingly involved with Mental Health First Aid – Youth, both on campus and statewide through its membership with the Community of Practice on School-based Behavioral Health (CoP SBBH).

Mental Health First Aid – Youth (MHFA-Y) is help offered to a person (in this case a youth) developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. MHFA-Y is provided until appropriate treatment and support are received or until the crisis is resolved. MHFA-Y is not a substitute for counseling, medical care, peer support or treatment.

 In Pennsylvania, a process has been established for training to become certified in MHFA-Y, similar to credentialing in first aid through the American Red Cross. This training to receive a certificate as a mental health first aider is eight hours in length.
There is also an established process for someone to become a credentialed instructor in MHFA-Y, requiring one full week of intensive training. The process has numerous, required fidelity/treatment integrity metrics relevant to training after one is credentialed as an instructor in MHFA-Y. Schools across the Commonwealth are increasingly exploring training and credentialing of teachers and other school staff to meet the Act 71requirements associated with suicide prevention.

MHFA-Y is an offshoot of Mental Health First Aid for Adults. It is considered an evidence-based program by numerous federal-level entities, including the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The Community of Practice on School-based Behavioral Health (CoP SBBH) is a statewide community of cross-sector stakeholders and leaders who share a commitment to the advancement of early childhood, school age and adult behavioral health and wellness. The CoP SBBH supports children, youth, families, schools and community partners through development of comprehensive early childhood and school-based behavioral health support systems.

 This is carried out to overcome non-academic barriers to learning so all children and youth can successfully transition into adulthood. Current focus of the CoP SBBH is on:

  1. Promoting implementation and sustainability of evidenced-based multi-tiered systems of supports (PBIS);
  2. Promoting integration of evidence-based programming into decision-making frameworks (e.g. situating mental health EBPs within the PBIS framework); and
  3. Fostering and leveraging articulated and robust school-community partnerships. 

The CoP SBBH believes it will have been successful when children, youth, families, educational entities and community agencies have access to services, supports, training, technical assistance, and collaborative opportunities that ensure academic and emotional/social success for all. The CoP SBBH operates the Affiliated Network of PBIS Facilitators (Trainers) in Pennsylvania and is in the process of organizing a parallel Affiliated Network of MHFA-Y Trainers in Pennsylvania.

 To learn more about MHFA-Y, along with other kindred evidence-based approaches to address non-academic barriers to learning, contact McDowell Institute at .

 By Tim Knoster, co-director, McDowell Institute