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Traveling STEM Fair Draws In Teachers and Students

Thousands of students and teachers took over the campus of George Washington University in the nation's capital last Saturday to learn more about science, technology, engineering, and math.

The daylong event, titled the Share Fair, was the second stop in a nationwide STEM tour, after a visit to the University of Central Florida, in Orlando, in January. Funded by the Morgridge Family Foundation (one of the families behind Cisco Systems Inc.), the Share Fair started in Denver several years ago, but the foundation decided to expand it this year.

Each Share Fair contains two parts: A free-for-all science fair area, dubbed "the STEMosphere," and professional-development track for teachers. According to Jacynta Brewton, associate director for school alumni programs at GWU, at least 2,000 people had attended by midday Saturday, taking part in hands-on opportunities provided by just under three dozen organizations and companies, including NASA, SMART Technologies, iSchool, KEVA (they make building blocks), the Nature Conservancy, and, naturally, GWU.

Here's a taste of what attendees experienced:

(I really liked the blocks.)

Latousha Leslie, a nurse in Prince George's County, attended with her husband, 10-year-old son, and 6-year-old daughter, in order to expose her children to the STEM areas.

"It's key to everything we do in life," Leslie said. "They're young, and I wanted to bring them out while they're young so they could see all the opportunities available, and see how fun it is to involve science and all the STEM disciplines in the everyday things we do in life."

While children played around in the STEMosphere, teachers participated in professional-development activities in the building next door, getting new experience in areas like social media, flipped classrooms, and computer programming.

Jessica Boyd, a pre-K teacher at KIPP DC, wanted to find ways to differentiate learning in a simple way that would resonate with her young students, and said she found the fair helpful in showing the benefit of a good instructional mix of approaches.

"It doesn't always have to be blatant, like, iPads, computers ... You don't always think of modeling tools and things like that as technology, but it really comes together and you can use those different resources together to make an engaging classroom," she said.

The Share Fair heads next to the University of Missouri, in St. Louis, on March 29.

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