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  • STEM Math and Science Coaching Cohorts Overview   

    Big Ideas:


    • Teaching is a complex process and no one has it nailed.
    • We are smarter together.
    • We can always get better for our kids.


    Guiding Questions for our group:


    • How can my classroom become a place where students are doing the reading, writing, thinking and problem solving?
    • How can effective implementation of the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices and the Standards for Math Practice help my students become better problem-solvers?


      • How can we utilize the science and engineering practices and the standards for math practice to create integrated math/science STEM lessons?
      • How can my classroom answer the questions, “Where does this live in the world?”, and “Who could be an audience other than the teacher?”


    • How can this group and the coaching cycle help me to get smarter about STEM?


    Teaching Targets for the year:


    • I can write learning targets for my students and intentionally plan for students to reflect on how they are getting smarter each day.
    • I can intentionally plan lessons that highlight the NGSS Science Practices and the Standards of Math Practices using the 5E’s and/or Planning for Thinking templates that  allow students to do the work.
    • I can ask myself planning questions to better align my practice with my beliefs.


    • I can  engage all students in problem-solving, STEM experiences, and higher level thinking.
    • I can create a classroom where students are doing the work.


    Participants and structures since 2012:

    • 100 middle and high school math teachers from around the district
    • 100 middle and high school science teachers from around the district
    • 10 middle and high school technology teachers from around the district
    • Cohort A – new teachers to STEM will have one learning day in September before joining Cohort B or C for lab days.
    • Cohort B – Math teachers only, including some of the Cohort A teachers. Focusing on math classrooms where students are in charge of the learning.
    • Cohort B - Science teachers only, including some of the Cohort A teachers. Focusing on science classrooms where students are in charge of the learning.
    • Cohort C Regular – Combination of math and science teachers. Working on integrating math and science. Science teachers focus on teasing the mathematics out of the science for focused instruction to use math to make more powerful and compelling scientific arguments. Math teachers using science as context for mathematical concepts.
    • Cohort C PBL – Combination of math and science teachers. All PBL teachers have participated in BIE PBL 101 training and are working on PBLs using authentic audience.
    • Cohort V - Combination of math and science teachers. These teachers are participating in the STEM cohort virtually. They film their classes and share with each other.


    Participants in the STEM Coaching Cohort will experience the following each year:

    • One full professional learning day:
      • Focusing on unit and lesson planning.
      • The afternoon of this day will be for collaborative planning with building teams and across schools.
    • 2 lab days:
      • A teacher from the cohort will be coached to host a lab in their classroom.
      • We will do some reading and learning together to label what we see in the lab classroom.
      • During the class, we use an online discussion tool to get real time noticings.
      • The afternoon will be a chance to plan with colleagues to implement new learning that teachers got out of the lab.
    • On-going one-on-one and small group coaching:
      • Teachers will meet me a minimum of 3 times throughout the school year.
      • These coaching sessions can be for planning or observation debrief.
      • Coaching notes are recorded on a google doc so that teachers have a place to record their own thoughts based on the feedback they get.
    • Field Experiences:
      • Hacking STEM professional learning
      • University of Boulder First Year Engineering Expo
      • Denver Museum of Nature and Science Workshops
      • Design Challenge Workshops
      • Coding Workshops
      • ArcGIS workshop
      • InWorks Maker Space at University of Colorado at Denver
      • Fiske Planetarium
      • Plains Conservation Center
      • Chatfield Conservation Center
      • National Center for Atmospheric Research



    Secondary STEM Cohort work:

    Denise and Sherri were hired in 2012 to provide support for integrating STEM for all in secondary science and math classrooms.  From previous experiences with the district Lit Lab workshop model, instructional coaching, leading professional learning, and research about effective professional learning and coaching methods, we developed the cohort model.  This model includes one professional learning day at the beginning of the school year to develop STEM pedagogy using the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Science and Engineering practices and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Standard of math practices.  Then teachers engage in at least two coaching cycles per year with each teacher or PLT team to plan, observe, and debrief STEM science and math lessons. We also provided subs for two lab days per year per teacher for them to observe model STEM lessons, engage in a model lesson, then plan for a STEM lesson they can take back to their classroom. In 2012, we started with 16 teachers in one feeder area, then added cohorts over time.  We also provide credit opportunities through the district ERO online platform for additional learning with our partners around coding, technology, engineering, and science and mathematics.

    What we know is this work matters. From interviews, surveys, direct observations, evaluation and feedback, our teachers show an amazing shift in pedagogy that allows all students to engage in thinking, problem-solving, designing, communicating, collaborating, and constructing explanations. Teachers continue to tell us that this model is the best professional learning they have ever engaged in and their biggest impact came from attending the lab days.  Some have volunteered to be lab hosts and the growth they make and the feedback they get is so validating and energizing that they continue to change and learn.

    We have seen tremendous changes in the classroom as a result of our work.  Students are more engaged, work more collaboratively, think more critically, and have more academic success in science and math. We have seen an improvement in PLT common assessments, and overall, see increased numbers of all groups of students enrolled in High School STEM elective courses.

    In the following sections, you will see more evidence of our work and our support of district initiatives, high-quality professional learning and our impact on teachers and student achievement in STEM and Innovation:


    Cohort Evaluation and Logic Model: (Qualitative and Quantitative Data since 2012)



    CRE support:

    We include the five CRE planning question in our “Planning for Thinking” templates. (What do I want students to understand? What do I want students to feel? What are the targets for rigor? What are the indicators for engagement? What are the opportunities to be responsive?) https://docs.google.com/document/d/1crMVVuTrwTncqBT0R-XiVtJGt-FjRWBa3CY-2QuVw-Y/edit?usp=sharing

    Planning for Thinking in math: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1YGQUoqlFt4VfZPdPdLjbxxoE7_o2asVY/view?usp=sharing


    Underrepresented groups

    • Our CCSD STEM and Innovation program is unique for a large district as we have identified our main goal to provide all students with high quality STEM experiences K-12 to increase the academic success of girls, minority groups, and ELL students.  Historically, CCSD has always been a high performing district, with an achievement gap between minority and ELL students. In addition, the number of girls entering STEM courses or diploma programs in high schools has always been significantly less than boys.  The number of girls in STEM electives in middle schools is significantly less than boys. We also see fewer students of color choosing STEM electives. To reach our goal, we researched the need for STEM (the why), why there are underrepresented groups entering STEM careers and college programs, and how to create an effective professional learning program to help teachers provide STEM experiences for all students.  As a district, we have had a focus on equity since 2008, but continue to see a gap in opportunity and achievement. In response, we have established equity teams at each school, intensive PLC structures and support at all schools, and have some pilot schools in the CRE (culturally responsive education) cohorts with Adeyemi Stembridge, who leads teachers in creating lessons with CRE strategies and facilitates teacher observational rounds. He also leads CRE workshops in our district for other schools. We have partnered with the Inclusive Excellence department and included CRE teachers and strategies in our secondary cohorts, as well as the ELL department to include co-teachers in our cohort work and hosts for lab days to highlight effective language strategies.CRE and ELL coaches participate in our lab days as well and help our host teachers plan STEM lessons that teachers will observe.



    By using NGSS science and engineering practices and CCSS standards of math practices, students are engaged in relevant and meaningful experiences and by establishing best practices in a STEM classroom, students can connect to content and investigate their own interests and passions. STEM practices are rigorous and challenge students to think, to create, to innovate, to communicate, and to care about the world around them and investigate problems they want to solve. The secondary STEM cohorts focus on these STEM practices and PBL experiences so that students become more efficacious about STEM content, but also learn the skills they need to seek STEM career pathways in high school and post grad.

    • In teacher and student surveys, we see evidence that both teachers and students feel more positive and engaged in STEM. Teachers feel more efficacious in teaching STEM and changing their pedagogy to include the STEM practices and PBL, 5E or workshop model instructional models. Teachers say that students are becoming more effective in the STEM practices, are more engaged and excited about learning.  We have evidence from student work samples that they are more proficient at writing scientific explanations and solving math problems. We also see from classroom observations that teacher pedagogy has shifted, that students are engaged in the SEP’s and/or SMP’s (STEM practices), are collaborating more, talking more, thinking on their own more, and communicating their justification based on evidence.  We see students K-12 involved in district STEM competitions such as Near Space Balloon launches, Lego and First Robotics, Scratch day, hour of code, accessing makerspaces, PBL projects and symposiums, and enrolling in STEM courses in high school.
    • As we train middle and high school teachers in our new Stratostar near space balloons, we expect that projects and experiments will get more and more complex as students interact with and analyze the data in their weather, space, earth science, or math classes. We had two launches this year. At Challenge and at Cherry Creek High School (spring 2018)
    • The bond and budget elections have enabled us to reinvent spaces in all of our Middle schools to create STEM wings, updated labs, computer science programs, and makerspaces in abandoned workshop spaces and libraries.
    • Secondary teachers that incorporate PBL into their classes also allow students to solve problems, think critically, and care about real world problems. Students that present their PBL final product, solution, creative idea, or innovation, speak to actual professional adults that are in STEM careers to get real feedback at their symposiums, or for feedback within a PBL cycle to allow for revision and iteration.



    Both Sherri and Denise work with science and math PLC’S in some middle schools and high schools. We have asked whole teams to sign up for the same cohort next year.  We have participated in several Tom Manny workshop days and attended the PLC summit in Phoenix in 2018.


    Partnerships and other Professional Learning:

    In order to increase the number of students impacted by knowledgeable and efficacious STEM teachers, we have sought various business, non-profit, University, and government agencies to help with teacher training, research opportunities, PBL training, competitions, professional conferences, field experiences, and certificate and credit opportunities.  

    • In 2013 - 2015, we formed a partnership with CSU School of Engineering and developed a STEM certificate program. We offered three one-week workshops for three consecutive summers and had 34 teachers complete the program, but had 20 others take at least one of the three workshops.  These teachers were in teams of three and included a math, science, and technology teacher (ideally) to develop STEM PBL’s with the help of CSU researchers and resources. Teachers also went to CSU to visit the engineering school, and were able to learn about the current research being done in biochemical, electrical, and mechanical engineering.  We do plan on creating another opportunity for this program in the next few years.
    • In our Secondary STEM science, math, and integrated cohorts, partnerships began to develop in 2014 as we reached out to Robert Payo at the DMNS and others to begin to offer more training and experiences with content, field research, local resources, and technology. Our teachers attended their first professional learning day for Cohort C at the museum in September of 2015. Robert Payo led them through an engineering design problem involving solar sails in space and they were able to tour the basement research and categorizing facilities.  Our relationship with Robert has continued as we have offered our science teachers three Saturday workshops in 2015-16 in space, evolution, and human body. In 2016-17, Robert hosted some of our science teachers for a Solar Eclipse workshop, and then our new PBL K-12 teachers attended a morning Solar Eclipse workshop as well before the PBL training. In January of 2018, 40 teachers attending a 5 hour workshop addressing the Science and Engineering Practices: Analyzing and Interpreting Data and Mathematical and Computational Thinking.
    • We also arranged for a field experience day with the Botanical Gardens at Chatfield reservoir in May of 2016 and worked with Matt Chapman.  We worked with the Plains Conservation group (which is now owned by the Botanical Gardens), to tour their facilities and the West Bijou Conservation area. Now that they are open again, we hope to arrange for a Saturday field experience to our teachers to see what they can bring back to students, or how to bring students to them.
    • Two teachers have done research in biotechnology start up companies as a result of a partnership with Meg John at Colorado BioScience Initiatives in 2016.  We will continue to offer that opportunity to our cohort teachers on a yearly basis.
    • We have contacts at the Denver Zoo for student experiences, and at McRel for possible work with our teacher projects in ecology and environmental science.
    • We have been involved in a biotechnology program grant with Dr.  Fen Yeung at Front Range Community College. In the spring of 2016, 12 of our teachers participated in three Saturday workshops where they were trained in different biotech kits and were able to check out these kits and the materials throughout the year.  She just received another grant, so we will be offer this opportunity again this school year.
    • In 2016, we met a district parent, Dr. Kate Goodman, who directs the InWorks Makerspace at UCD. As a result, we organized two field trip days for our cohort C teachers in August at UCD downtown and in September at UCD south campus (Wildlife Experience) where they rotated through four different Makerspace and Innovation and engineering  experiences. We will continue to offer teachers opportunities to visit and use that space.
    • Since  2015, we began to work with our district social studies coordinator to offer ESRI ARC/GIS trainings to social studies and science teachers in our district.  Joseph Kerski also conducted workshops for our cohort C teachers during lab days in 2016. We continue to work with Joseph and train teachers on how to explore the GIS website, access lessons, how to make maps and share them with students, how to make storymaps. CSEN (Colorado Science Educators Network) and state Social Studies Educators Network Created this together for teachers using Arc GIS.: (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1EuyJus4x-DeYfPxcKAPDZ8QTH8xkCKTOmrrl299y1OY/edit?usp=sharing)
    • To encourage more girls in STEM, we have helped to support several of our middle and high schools in developing or enhancing their “Girls in STEM” after school programs with the help of Wendy Merchant. Some schools seek PTCO money to cover the $100 fee and the goal is to have the middle and high school girls get together for experiences to enhance relationships and efficacy.
    • In 2016, we began working with Eric Carpenter at CU Boulder Science Discovery for STEM education  and Daria Kotys-Schwartz, PhD IdeaForge Director | College of Engineering and Applied Science Design Center Colorado Co-Director | Mechanical Engineering  Senior Instructor | Mechanical Engineering. Eric developed a series of four hour and Saturday workshops that K-8 teachers enrolled in to work in Makerspaces, Innovation, and Engineering Experiences.  They will continue to make these workshops available in 2017-18. The secondary STEM cohorts will be attending the CU IdeaForge campus in December for the freshman symposium to experience what students are doing at that level, and how to present PBL ideas in engineering as well as tinkering with their Makerspaces.  Teachers attended a Saturday Engineering Symposium in December 2017.
    • NASA has been our partner since 2008 in developing two high school NASA Hunch Programs.  This past spring, several of our teacher-led student teams(one elementary) made it to the final competitions in Houston, TX.   
    • We have other partners that include the following that contribute funding, or opportunities for students and teachers: Community/Non-profit: National Academy Foundation, Rotary Club of Aurora Foundation, CCSD Foundation  Higher Education: Colorado School of Mines, Community College of Aurora, Metropolitan State University of Denver, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Denver,UCD, CSU, FRCC   
    • Industry: Jeppesen/Boeing Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp., Merrick Corp., Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Spalding Rehabilitation Hospital, United Launch Alliance, Lemelson-MIT, Wings over the Rockies, CEI, Stratostar Near Space Balloons, Boeing
    • Government: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), NCAR 2017-2018 - Cohort Members participated in free workshops with CU Boulder Engineering, ARC GIS, DMNS, Plains Conservation Center.


    Project-Based Learning (PBL):

    Since 2015, the department of STEM and Innovation has been offering the Gold Standard PBL workshop training with the Buck Institute for Education. Science and Math Cohort teachers who attend get follow up support with our lab days and coaching cycles as well to create, teach, adjust PBL’s and provide students opportunities to present to an audience other than their teacher or class.  Some teachers have taken students to the state capital to discuss issues they were researching and the solutions to problems they care about. Also, some schools have had all school, or grade-level STEM symposiums in the evenings for parents to attend.

    Most teachers have attended the PBL 101 workshop and some will be attending the Coaching workshop or 201 this summer.  We currently have 53 math and science teachers in our Cohort C PBL group.


    We are offering the following workshop at the end of each school years: Eight 101 K-5, three 101 6-12, 201, Coaching, and Leadership.


    Funding:  Grants, district, schools for sub days (2 needed per year) and cost to pay our partners providing professional learning.  Stratostar kit for secondary - needed permanent supplies and then restock consumables.

    District and State Math and Science Content Support:

    Sherri and Denise work very closely with Sarah North, Sarah Ridder, Jocelyn Hatfield, and Heather Palumbo to support the work with standards prioritization, district alignment, math placement,  high school graduation requirements (Denise) and state standards revision committee (Sherri). We also attend regional and state science and math network meetings and district leader meetings. (Like CSEN, CDSL)


    Teacher quotes (Impact in the classroom:

      • I now have a better idea of how I can incorporate First Thinking/New Thinking. I am now going to see if there is a better way that I am unaware of to move between my different forms of technology. I really liked how the students showed their work under the document camera. I liked how the room was setup, it makes me want to alter mine. I have lots of great ideas now I need time to create and follow through with them.
      • After today I am thinking about my lessons and how I can incorporate more student thinking and reflecting every day. I want to add a system and structure in my class where students feel comfortable showing their work in front of the class. I am going to take away some of the first thinking formats and try to implement them in the next few units. I want to change the amount of time that we do whole group instruction and give students more working and thinking time. Strategic planning of questions and activities will help facilitate that student discourse.
      • I realized that there is still a huge gender gap in STEM classes at the upper levels.  What can we do in middle school to help narrow that future gap?
        • I realized the for the most part, admin likes the "showy" parts of PBL but don't really value it (or maybe understand it) enough to give us the necessary time for collaboration and planning.
        • I am very excited that Sarah & Shaina are willing to work with Rebecca & I to put together a PBL that we can all do in our math and science classes.  I have a vague understanding of the SMPs but working with Shaina & Sarah we should be able to really blend SMP and NGSS.
        • This was great for me to see a lesson so far outside of my comfort zone (coding)!  I am ready to give some coding (more than Scratch ;-) a try in my classroom. Thanks for giving us plan time!  
        • I figured out that I struggle with a lot of the same things as others: giving up control, finding a real-world audience, etc.  I was also reminded of how important it is for kids to reflect on their thinking and give/get feedback.
        • I am thinking that I want to work on embedding projects throughout the unit better and getting kids to reflect on their thinking and giving/getting feedback better.
        • Do now: Look at Kate's DLR form to see how I might be able to incorporated it/modify it for my classroom.  Look at my lessons for my current unit and plan ways to better incorporate reflection and feedback.
        • Do later: Plan how I can embed the Water filtration project throughout the chemistry unit.  Think about how I might be able to work with one other math teacher to try to plan an interdisciplinary project.  
      • I am feeling good about the 5E lesson planning/STEM/NGSS/PBL.  I just need time. I don't feel confident in 3 dimensional learning and Math SMPs, yet.  
        • I really liked the time to bounce ideas off of each other and plan.  Kate's lesson was great, and it was fun to think about how to take things back to my room.  I always value time to plan, especially with the PBL problems we face, so more time to plan (3 hours at least) would be great.  It would also help if my science and math co-workers were in my cohort.
      • The big "ah-ha"s that took place in Meghan's class were countless!  I am inspired by the purposeful groupings, another use of real-world application using percents, the power of wait time, etc.  So much to use and/or store away for next year! :-) I also appreciated the refresh on the idea of purposeful thinking. Allowing students to have time to identify what they think before having conversations with others is so important!  Sometimes I feel like I skip over that part because I value peer discussions so much. I need to remember to allow them time to think about their initial thoughts before contributing to others. I also need to be more mindful about where and how students hold their thinking and how they can use that information to refer back to when needed.  
        • Thanks for a productive and information-filled day.  I always enjoy being able to share/steal ideas from others and this is a great forum to be able to do just that!  
      • Sometimes these STEM days just remind us of what we already know makes good sense. Using a phenomenon in the real world to engage student curiosity. Using a well thought out framework (DCI, CCC, SEP, etc.) to plan learning objectives. Sharing good teaching practices with our peers by seeing them in action in the classroom.
      • Hi Denise, I wanted to let you know that I will be retiring this year.  I appreciate all of your time and expertise over the years. The instructional practices I learned with you were game changers and made me a better teacher.  
Last Modified on January 31, 2020