Teachers Take a 'Roundabout' Approach to STEM Training

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Six teachers from Baltimore City schools visited an existing busy roundabout, toured a site for a proposed roundabout, and then, working in teams, created their own roundabout models.

But their objective really wasn't the smooth flow of traffic -- it was to further science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education for their middle and high school students and increase students' awareness of careers in the transportation industry.

It was all part of the Fall 2014 Teacher Transportation Institute (TTI) at the National Transportation Center at Morgan State University. Teachers attended the free program on Saturdays and earned achievement units (AUs) through the Center for Continuing and Professional Studies at Morgan State University (MSU).Shiron Lindsay teaches design at the Mount Washington School.

"They have looked at what worked and what didn't work and compared literature, and the results are supposed to be shown in their models," explains TTI course instructor Safieh Laaly, an adjunct faculty member at MSU who holds a doctorate in engineering and is a registered landscape architect in Maryland. "Basically, it's looking at STEM education and how it applies to today's market. The teachers experience how it impacts their own understanding of STEM -- what's effective and what's not -- so that they can promote STEM education in their classrooms as they see fit."

Along with engineering, the roundabout project included math activities such as scaling, unit conversion, modeling and geometric concepts; data collection, such as traffic volume counts; and science concepts, such as elements and compounds, ecology and even anatomy and physiology when reviewing collision injuries.

Estelito Reyes, who teaches math at Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts high school, says examining the roundabout's advantage over an intersection "is more interesting for my students" while also making them aware of "the jobs, the career opportunities open to them for transportation."

Shiron Lindsay, a design teacher at the Mount Washington School, says, "These are problems [students] can solve in their own communities. Engineers deal with real-world issues that affect everyday people. This gets them to think how they can contribute to the city."Estelito Reyes teaches math at Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts high school.

The teachers plan to adapt the lessons for their students by having them identify crowded areas within the school that have heavy pedestrian traffic flow, gather data and then interpret the data.

As part of the TTI, the teachers took field trips to Washington, D.C., to visit the National Museum of American History's transportation hall; downtown Towson to study its busy roundabout; and the intersection of Light Street and Key Highway, where a roundabout has been proposed. They also enjoyed guest speakers -- such as Valorie LaCour, chief of the Transportation Planning Division at the Baltimore City Department of Transportation, and Roland Wilson, a retired regional program manager for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration -- and "driving" in the driving simulators at the National Transportation Center.