Jessica WalstonCurrently teaches Kindergarden at Hastings Catholic School and has 14 years of teaching experience with 12 of those years at HCS. Her college education includes a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education with an endorsement in Early Childhood Education. Prior to teaching, Mrs. Walston worked for three years in a daycare facility and was Co-Director for two of those years.

Thesis Title: Improving kindergartener's initiative to problem solve through integrated STEM

Many teachers are familiar with students who are scared to try to solve a problem and instead look to adults for specific answers. Students need to be prepared to solve problems independently and collaboratively. One of the necessary skills to solve a problem is to first try, or take initiative. The purpose of this action research was to identify Kindergarten students’ initial initiative to problem solve by formal evaluation of student learning-related skills, taken from the Cooper-Farran Behavioral Rating Scale (1991). In this study, students were provided opportunities to take the initiative to problem solve through a series of integrated STEM and Habits of Mind lessons. The students were then observed during the lessons. These observations helped the teacher to prepare appropriate lessons and evaluate students on their learning-related skills. This research suggests that, when a student shows a high level of personal interest in an integrated STEM topic or Habits of Mind lesson, they are more motivated to take the initiative to problem solve. Students were also more likely to participate and persevere through a task when their interest was piqued. Teachers could use students’ personal interests in STEM education as a strategy for supporting future success.

Justin WheelerA 3rd grade teacher at Longfellow Elementary in Scottsbluff, NE. He has been at Longfellow for four years, works hard to help his students reach their full potential. He is originally from Kimball, NE but have lived here in our community for the past 9 years. Prior to moving to the Scottsbluff area, I served 4 years in the U.S. Army.  I graduated from Chadron State College with a degree in Elementary Education.

Thsis Title: How vocabulary notebooks change student knowledge of science concepts and vocabulary

This study was conducted to determine the effect that an explicit vocabulary strategy, the use of vocabulary notebooks, may have on students in an upper elementary science classroom. The study was conducted in a small mid-western town of approximately 14,000 people in an elementary school with approximately 415 students. The study was conducted in a science classroom of fifth-grade students in which the primary investigator was the teacher. The research question for this study was: How does student’s vocabulary knowledge of science concepts change when students create vocabulary notebook entries including definition, science concept, examples, and non-examples? Data sources collected for this study were participant interview responses, weekly investigator journals, and student-submitted work in the form of quizzes and assessments. The findings suggest that, during the study, no significant change occurred.

Aaron Rohde

Thesis Title: How Vocabulary Notebooks Change Student Knowledge of Science Concepts and Vocabulary

In this study, I looked at how does student engagement change when a certain assessment is announced prior to a unit. This study looks at what different assessment levels have been researched to accomplish and how to utilize that to our advantage. I researched how does student engagement change when STEM projects are introduced in a 5th grade classroom. It is the role as educators to work towards providing our students with the opportunities to express their levels of knowledge and to show students what they have achieved. This study looks at what I found to be important about STEM projects and if projects changed student engagement in my classroom. I found that students’ engagement levels were not impacted by assessment strategies, but more related to utilizing STEM projects.

Brooke Waddell: A 2nd grade teacher at Harvard Public School in Harvard, NE. 

Thesis Title: Influence of STEM Lessons on Critical Thinking

The study of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is leading educators into a new world of teaching. The classroom roles have been reversed and students are now in charge of their own learning. Students are learning how to engineer and solve real-world problems through critical thinking. Integrated STEM lessons are teaching students to use their prior knowledge across subject areas to prepare themselves for the workforce needed in the 21st century. This study was conducted in a rural second grade classroom with the number of students ranging from 16 to 21. Throughout this study qualitative data was collected. The students participated in integrated STEM lessons where qualitative data was collected through student work samples, student surveys, student interviews, and a teacher journal. In addition, students were asked to answer a student survey on their feelings toward science after each experiment.