It takes more than one strategy to dismantle and rebuild the oppressive public education system. The TAF toolkit for reimagining education includes: more engaging learning experiences in the classroom, community and resources for BIPOC educators and white leaders in education, and now introducing a suite of professional learning opportunities. These offerings will cater to teachers, administrators, and school districts. This new facet of TAF rounds out the robust catalog of programs, empowering the people who directly impact student learning environments to radically change the public education game.

10 Years of Summer Institute

This new TAF offering started with one network school in the summer of 2012: Summer Institute. Though it has changed dramatically over the years, the intention of the weeklong professional development program has always been to give teachers and administrators space to explore project-based learning and STEM education. It began as explanatory lessons and grew to provide hands on project planning support. Today Summer Institute seeks to answer the questions: how do you implement PBL and STEM in the classroom, and change classroom culture to accommodate these tenets of the STEMbyTAF model?

This year marked a decade of Summer Institute. For Institute 2022, there were 63 teachers in attendance from 7 schools across 4 districts, and it was the first fully in person year since 2019.  

Teachers and school administrators chose from a range of workshops depending on what they sought from this professional development. These workshops tackled driving questions, student voice and choice, technology tools, multidisciplinary projects, antiracist curriculum, community connections, and much more. Alongside targeted workshops, there were entire group sessions including an inspiring keynote on antiracist curriculum building with Lorena Germán, co-director of Multicultural Classroom and author of Textured Teaching. Throughout the week, school teams gathered to get some work done and develop actual project plans to guide the school year ahead.

This group of learners spanned a wide range of familiarity with all the facets of the STEMbyTAF education model. Some teachers, administrators, and entire schools were in their first year working with TAF. Alternatively, others had been involved with TAF since Summer Institute began. To accommodate this range in background knowledge, some of the veteran educators only attended the last few days of sessions, which focused more on project work and introducing new tools. 

We talked to some teacher participants about Summer Institute, and here’s what they had to say.

Kylie Alvarado, TAF@Saghalie math teacher since 2015, talks about how project-based learning bridges gaps in students learning:

“How else do you differentiate in a classroom, especially from a math perspective, if someone is at a 7th or 8th grade level and someone's at a 2nd grade level? How do you give them an assignment, quote unquote? If it's a project, you can take the 2nd grade version of that standard and you can take the 7th grade version of that standard and dial it up, dial it down to their needs. It's still the same content, we're just adding an extra variable for this student. They're still all doing the same math, so they wouldn't feel like they're being left out or in that group, because that's part of it, too. Even within, if you were to differentiate, pretty soon they figure out, oh, those are the smart kids, and they label themselves. But with PBL, you just mix them all up and then they don't even realize. If a teacher did it skillfully enough, the kids would not even realize that they were being accommodated. They just think they're doing the same project together.”

Veronica Romero, 1st grade teacher new this year at Beverly Park, talks about how project-based learning will impact their work:

“I've always worked in primary grades. The very first time I transitioned from teacher to facilitator and let them have conversations, I was amazed at the ideas and the way they conduct their conversations and the things that they can create I mean I was just mind blown, like they're like geniuses! And that was in a much smaller capacity. Now I have the resources to really facilitate their learning and through project-based learning. I'm really excited about what they're going to create and what they're going to experience through this.”

Summer Institute has shifted and grown over the past ten years, and there is more change to come. Starting this fall, Institute will be just one of many professional learning opportunities provided by TAF. We are launching a new programming arm, Academy for EDvancement, to significantly broaden TAF’s professional learning offerings. Alongside Summer Institute, the Academy for EDvancement will offer micro-credentialing opportunities, a series of vertical courses on specific topics, and consulting to schools and districts.

Stay tuned, there will be much more to come from TAF’s new Academy for EDvancement in the near future.