Students Who Teach, It’s All Part Of Remaking The Education System

[This summer I helped to coordinate the South Fayette STEAM Innovation Summer Institute. Here’s a great story done by WESA-FM, the PBS affiliate in Pittsburgh,  about the role of students as teachers for the Summer Institute.]

South Fayette STEAM Institute

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

It may be summer, but on a recent sunny June day, a small group of teachers and students stayed indoors. They sat in classrooms at the South Fayette School District campus for a different take on traditional summer school.

In the STEAM Summer Institute, teachers far out-numbered students, and in some instances, it was the students who were doing the teaching.

South Fayette High School Freshman Parv Shrivastava was one of those students. He taught a room full of teachers how to use programming language. Shrivastava used a block-based programming language know as Scratch, to coax a cartoon cat across a computer screen. Students watched as his work was projected onto a white board.

After the getting the grasp of Scratch, the teachers used Raspberry Pi, or a small computer used to learn programming language. Using that, the teachers put their new skills to the test, using some wires and a resister to turn on and off an LED.

“We’re feeling very accomplished right now,” said Ryan Puz, a recent college graduate. She spent last year as a substitute teacher and is now looking for a classroom to call her own.

Puz said the knowledge level of the students was “mind blowing.”

The two weeks of workshops at the Summer Institute focus on helping teachers incorporate maker space and science, technology, engineering, arts and math, or STEAM, concepts into their classrooms.

The idea to have students teach the teachers came after watching students teach the computer programing language, Python, to each other, said South Fayette Director of Technology and Innovation Aileen Owens. While at one of the district’s annual summer institutes, she said she realized teachers might also want to learn the language.

“As we looked around at professionals in the field (to teach the class), professionals were very busy and didn’t have a lot of time to devote to this,” Owens said. “So we took the students who have been teaching and then assigned them to be teachers.”

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