The third annual Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education Leadership Symposium will take place Monday, June 28.

The goal of the symposium is to show how leaders and teachers are responsible for the success and maintenance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in K-12 institutions.

Cal Poly is the “hothouse” for future STEM leaders and teachers because it does a phenomenal job of preparing students for those careers, said James Gentilucci, associate professor for the School of Education and coordinator of the Educational Leadership and Administrative Program (ELAP) and sponsor of the STEM Leadership Symposium.

However, today’s educational climate does not fully support STEM education.

Gentilucci compared Cal Poly’s way of tackling this issue with a field of grass. The grassroots represent the efforts to improve STEM education by “focusing on creating highly qualified teachers for STEM classrooms.”

The top of the grass represents a new effort by the ELAP to “create a new generation of STEM-focused school leaders who can create the necessary organizational capacity or support system to ensure that world-class STEM education is possible in schools,” Gentilucci said.

However, Gentilucci said in many educational environments the fit between the grassroots and the top of the grass contains a missing link.

This missing link involves what and how K-12 students are actually learning.

“K-12 schools are not currently structured for high-level achievement in STEM education,” Gentilucci said.

Gentilucci said part of this problem is due to state-imposed standards and many teachers not spending time on science because of the inefficient allocation of resources, such as lab equipment and funding, by leaders in education.

In K-12 education, students receive their education mostly by textbooks and lectures. The STEM education environment would be more efficient if classrooms adopted a “learn by doing” system like the one Cal Poly offers, Gentilucci said.

“Change cannot happen from the classroom. Teachers can only do so much,” Gentilucci said.

He said leaders must aid the teachers by asking for the help of legislators, policymakers and even parents as well as becoming more engaged with the teachers and students. Gentilucci said leaders should strive to become teachers who inspire with their passion and that when teachers show their passion for a subject, students pick up on it.

The symposium will also address the increasing shortage of STEM teachers in California and the nation and why they’re needed.

Event speakers include Kristina Bolts, assistant principal of Templeton Middle School and founder of the Templeton Biotechnology Institute, and John Keller, director of Cal Poly’s Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education (CESaME).

“Our goal is to change the face of education by starting locally and then move on to the state,” Gentilucci said.

Student research will be presented, along with free refreshments after the discussion.

Gentilucci anticipates 50-150 attendees, which will include principals, superintendents, teachers, professors, students and other members of the community.

The event will be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. in the Business Rotunda, room 213.

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