“A lot of the research out there shows that kids check-out of science and math by 2nd or 3rd grade. Girls see it as a boys subject, or they were never exposed to it early enough to develop an interest,” she said.
That experience made McDowell realize she wanted to make an impact on elementary students and introduce them to STEM subjects early on. She was thrilled to find an opening for an elementary STEM teacher in Barrington 220, and quickly applied.
McDowell got the job and helped launch the first-ever elementary STEM curriculum in Barrington 220 School District in the 2015-16 school year. Supported by the Barrington 220 Educational Foundation, the program has now expanded to reach every third- and fourth-grade student in the district, allowing them to have structured instruction in STEM during the course of the school day.
“Kids are overwhelmingly excited. They want to get started right away. They love accomplishing the challenges without having exact steps to follow and where there isn’t a right or wrong answer,” she said.
The knowledge students are gaining is more than just math and science concepts. They are learning to collaborate more effectively, solve problems more efficiently and be creative with their ideas.
“They’ve made such gains in being able to collaborate with each other and on a team,” she said. The confidence they display when parents come in to see their work makes it all worth it.”
A frequent presenter at local and national conferences, McDowell is a lifelong learner and loves to share her passion for STEM with others. She is nearing completion of a STEM certificate from Tufts University and is considering a PhD or National Board Certification next.