TED Conversations

Michael Martinell

Migrant/ESL Instructor, Watertown Public School

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What are your ideas to inspire my students in science, technology, engineering, and math?

I believe that students construct their own meanings from personal experience, and the knowledge that they gain through their own observations. I also believe that the role of the teacher is to help guide and encourage the learner, and allow them to make and learn from their own mistakes.

I teach English as a Second or New Language (ESL/ENL), and work with students whose families are predominately migrant, and are many times poorly educated. Their ages range from just entering preschool all the way to seniors in high school. They are spread over multiple school districts, and are separated by hundreds of miles. My students come to me with large academic gaps, meaning they have missed large chunks of important information in their school experience. They are largely motivated learners; however, their opportunities are severely limited. Also, due to the nature of my student's family lives they enter and leave school at an alarmingly high rate.

I have decided to completely change what I am doing with them, and want to change my focus to inspire them in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects. Of course, I will continue to teach them the language of basic communication, and the academic languages that they need.

The type of project I am looking for would need to be small enough that individual parts could be completed in just one class meeting (30 minutes), but the scope of the project should be large enough to encompass larger periods of time. This could be especially interesting for students who may participate, move away, and return the next year to witness the progress that has been made.

Right now I am looking for inspiration as to what the scope of the project would look like, and what might be involved to get it moving. This could take the form of interacting on web pages, but I would prefer that it have a large hands-on component as well. Ideally, this project will grow to benefit students across the country.


Closing Statement from Michael Martinell

When I consider the world 50+ years from now, I am awed by the marvels that must surely come. I know that not every scientist does every job, obviously, but unless my students get a chance to experience a taste from the various disciplines how will they ever know which one is for them? Perhaps in 50 years time college graduates will be able to answer basic 4th grade science questions because STEM will gain its rightful place in society.

You have all given me the gift of your insight and experience, and for that I am grateful.

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  • Jul 14 2013: Try to really interact with the students. Let them fall in love with these subjects immediately. But don't do silly activities, sych as ''a math song'' because students'll hate that. So the main aim should be: be interactive with them and do something that is really really excited and not childish

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