From the introduction of Zoom to the adoption of hybrid learning programs, the past year of the pandemic has rewritten the rules of the classroom. For educators at Clarkson, the doors were thrown open to plentiful opportunities, too. From the Hudson Valley to the North Country, the university continued to develop and enhance meaningful programs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.
“Prior to the pandemic a lot of our programming was geared to middle and high school students,” says Brigette Walsh, Assistant Director of Environmental Programs at Clarkson’s Beacon Institute, which is known for programs that promote environmental stewardship via the nearby Hudson River ecosystem. “By shifting to a virtual format, we were able to provide more programs for K-5, and connect and work with teachers in school districts we hadn’t worked with before.”
Starting last year, Walsh virtually joined classrooms to educate students on topics like estuary ecosystems and adaptation with help from live animals that call the Institute home. Visits from native species like the Eastern Box Turtle, Painted Turtle, and Largemouth Bass as well as the non-native Blue Tongue Skink and Ball Python were a welcome break for teachers and students alike. “Our feedback from teachers has often been lined with gratitude, hope, and excitement about future partnerships and field trips to Clarkson’s Dennings Point campus,” Walsh says.
The wide-scale adoption of distance learning programs also strengthened the collaboration between Clarkson’s Beacon Institute and its Potsdam campus. Prior to the pandemic, the IMPETUS (Integrated Math and Physics for Entry to Undergraduate STEM) for Career Success program, an academic mentoring program for students in grades 7-12, had been offered solely in the Potsdam area for over 20 years. When it went virtual last year, it was quickly extended to the Beacon City School District—seeding the ground for an offering that will be in place for years to come.
The past year also spurred important changes for Clarkson’s Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), a leading program in classroom education offered at Clarkson’s Capital Region Campus in Schenectady. The MAT program now offers certification in virtual learning, including how to smoothly shift course interaction and materials from the physical classroom to an online setting, and has been expanded to include specialization in business and marketing and computer science to meet the pressing need for more teachers with skills in these growing sectors.
“Schools are in high need for computer science teachers to teach students from kindergarten through grade 12,” says Catherine Snyder, Associate Professor, Education Chair and Associate Director of Clarkson’s Institute for STEM Education. “Computer Science teachers will play a vital role in preparing students for life after high school.”
The MAT program’s yearlong classroom residency component, a vital mentorship opportunity for its students, was also able to continue to support teachers in more than 18 New York K-12 schools as they adapted their curriculums to virtual learning.
The breadth of Clarkson’s programs and its longstanding commitment to STEM education has historically provided better access to quality, enriching, and engaging learning experiences. From outreach for elementary and secondary school through pedagogical support for higher education and vocational training, the university’s efforts over this school year have been instrumental in ensuring educational continuity for all.
For more information, visit discover.clarkson.edu/beacon.