Practicing Inclusiveness at the Colorado Science Conference
Dr. Temple Grandin said it best when she simply stated "The world needs all kinds of minds."
This was the main idea that inspired the theme for this year's Colorado Science Conference "Inclusiveness In Science". Teachers and Science Educators from all over the state gathered at the Denver Mart on November 9th to enhance their skills in a way that encourages more hands-on, creative learning in the classroom.
Nearly a hundred professional development sessions were available for participation throughout the day, all touching on different topics of STEM. Exhibitors filled the expo building, providing resources and activities for all ages. The SOLE Team held an archery session in the afternoon for teachers interested in learning about NASP (National Archery in the Schools Program). Participants who stayed all day received 5 hours of Professional Development Credit and a certificate of completion. The Conference was from 8am until 4pm.
The highlight for many participants was hearing the Keynote Speaker. Dr. Temple Grandin is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and a spokesperson for autism and the humane treatment of animals, particularly livestock. She was a consultant for the livestock industry for many years, receiving patents for corrals designed to reduce stress and injury for livestock intended for slaughter. These patents were extremely innovative inventions, revolutionizing the cattle industry and the way it looks at the ethical treatment of livestock.
She uses her "visual, photo-realistic brain" to understand how animals think and what makes them uncomfortable. Her insight on animal behavior led her to write several books, including "Animals in Translation", "Working with Farm Animals" and many more. She also has several books about autism and the many special ways humans think.
This was the main topic of her speech. Dr. Grandin explains that without visual thinkers, without spatial thinkers, and without verbal thinkers, our world misses out on the many creative ways to solve problems. She emphasizes that there is no "right way" to think. On the contrary, different ways of thinking can compliment each other very well.
Encouraging more hands-on learning in the classroom can allow those visual and spatial thinkers an opportunity to thrive. She encourages teachers and parents to allow their children to work with tools. Science magazines were something Dr. Grandin grew up with that, according to her, "taught me what I enjoyed and what I didn't enjoy" which can be extremely powerful for a young student. Allowing students to realize their likes and their strengths can give them the confidence they need to succeed in any capacity.
The world needs all kinds of minds. And while there are many creative learners and thinkers out there, it is up to the mind of a teacher to create an environment in which those minds thrive. As this years Science Conference concludes, teachers will take what they have learned and practice them in their schools, hopefully creating a class full of wonderful, confident, creative thinkers in the process.