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UNG hosts ELIPSE conference for STEM teachers

ELISPE conference
Alfredo Hernandez, left and Roberto Rodriguez, from World Language Academy in Flowery Branch, in the "The Art of Circuitry" session with Dr. Mark Spraker, professor of physics at UNG, at the ELIPSE conference on Jan. 27.

The University of North Georgia's (UNG) Gainesville Campus hosted the Georgia Science Teachers Associate (GSTA) District II Conference on Jan. 27. The conference, now in its fourth year, is geared toward helping teachers in grades K-12 spark a greater interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in their students.

The conference, also known as ELIPSE 4.0 (Experiential Learning and Inquiry for Physical Science Educators) is a joint effort among UNG, GSTA and Brenau University College of Education to present inquiry-based strategies and technologies to enhance K-12 learning.

ELIPSE 4.0 included nearly 100 participants from area schools to listen and participate in series of four 60-minute sessions covering a number of STEM topics for elementary, middle and high school instructors, with a number of UNG faculty presenting in the sessions.

Dr. Mark Spraker, professor of physics at UNG, and Dr. April Nelms, department head of teacher education at UNG, presented "The Art of Circuitry," that combines circuitry and drawing to teach electricity concepts through creative expression. Dr. Donna Governor, assistant professor in teacher education at UNG, presented "Family Science and Engineering Night" with teacher Denise Webb, about successfully engaging elementary, middle school and high school students in STEM show-and-tell activities.

"I thought the conference overall was well run, well attended with a number of great speakers," said Governor, who attended the first ELIPSE conference as president of the GSTA. "People said they felt they learned things that they could take back to teach in their classrooms."

The featured speaker was Dr. Clarke Miller, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UNG, whose presentation was titled "Connecting the Dots … Connecting Science to the Real World." In addition, Dr. Lester Morales, NASA's education professional development specialist, talked about NASA's Remote Sensing Technologies for Classroom Implementation. Felicia Cullars, Georgia Department of Education's STEM coordinator, spoke on STEM school certification.

"This was our best year yet, in terms of attendance and the diversity of topics that attendees could choose from," Nelms said. "We had 15 presenters who were very knowledgeable in their respective fields and the sessions were all new, featuring 3-dimensional learning and innovative, interactive instructional practices."

Nelms said ELIPSE works hand-in-hand with Georgia’s universities to support STEM education in K-12 schools in northeast Georgia. The work ELIPSE does is designed to bolster the content knowledge of instructors, as well as strengthening teaching skills in STEM subjects.

Dr. J.B. Sharma, professor and assistant department head of physics at UNG and one of the co-founders of ELISPE, said the conference takes teaching STEM subjects to a more creative level.

"ELIPSE builds bridges between science content and science education faculty that leads to create a larger community of STEM teachers in our region," Sharma said. "We have so much untapped STEM talent in our region that a lot of continued engagement is needed to ensure that all interested children develop into outstanding STEM professionals."

Sharma's presentation, "Building Community Climate Resiliency Using Satellite Imagery," explored using the RealEarth portal, accessible through a web browser or smartphone app, to use as a tool for physical science teaching and learning.

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