Every summer, teachers across the City have the opportunity to recharge their batteries, refine their teaching practices, and develop new skills that they can take back into their classrooms.

This year was no exception, as earlier this August, over 800 teachers had the chance to participate in the DOE’s 2017 Summer STEM Institute, a three-day professional development course sponsored by the GE Foundation and the Fund for Public Schools for teachers who are seeking to develop STEM-focused approaches to their instructional and support practices. STEM, short for science, technology, engineering, and math, is a core part of the DOE’s Computer Science for All initiative, which seeks to provide high-quality computer science education to every City public school student by 2025.

Over the course of the three-day institute at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, teachers broke up into teams made up 2–3 educators each and participated in hands-on sessions in robotics, computer science, urban gardening, engineering, solar energy, and design, among others.

But things really kicked off with a (big) bang when Neil deGrasse Tyson showed up:


Watch out, we’ve got a SCIENTIST over here…

Dr. Tyson, the famed astrophysicist, author, television host, Bronx High School of Science alum, and director of the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium, stopped by for an on stage, one-on-one Q&A session with Chancellor Carmen Fariña during the first day of the Summer STEM Institute to discuss how to prepare today’s students for the STEM-based jobs of tomorrow. Throughout his conversation with Chancellor Fariña, Dr. Tyson discussed ways to inspire students so that they remain curious, engaged, and energized about learning science and understanding the world in which they live.

At one point, Dr. Tyson said, “the greatest classes you ever took aren’t necessarily the ones you did well in, but rather, the ones you liked.” Tyson continued, “it’s based on how enthusiastic you became about the subject. And that’s something that always flows through the excitement of the teacher.”

When asked if he felt whether there are certain skills that teachers should master when teaching STEM, Dr. Tyson responded by saying that he felt that inspiration is the most important skill for an educator. He added, “Teachers shouldn’t be in the practice of checking boxes, but rather, blowing minds.

‘Blowing minds,’ eh?


Given the feedback we received from many of the 800 educators who were in attendance during this year’s Institute, it is clear that this professional development opportunity was a rousing success for our teachers! We thank our partners at the GE Foundation and the Fund for Public Schools for their ongoing contributions to our STEM-based work. We also would like to thank Chancellor Fariña and Dr. Tyson for stopping in during the Institute’s first day in summer 2017.

To learn more about the Summer STEM Institute, check out the Fund for Public School’s event coverage, and view Dr. Tyson and Chancellor Fariña’s entire Q&A directly below!



EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Dr. Tyson spoke during the first day of the STEM Summer Institute, and not the last day, as previously reported. We apologize for any misunderstanding.




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