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Bridging the Science Gap with Creative, Hands-On Engineering

Desiree Bayonet

Media production has always been a passion for Desiree Bayonet. She has used this passion in various ways throughout her accomplished career—as a program director at a volunteer-run radio station, as a maker educator at a local museum, as a curriculum developer, and as an edtech coordinator at a private school.

“Ultimately I realized I wanted to be in the classroom working with students every day,” said Bayonet. “And, as a product of public school education, I specifically wanted to help other public school students.”

Now, as a technology and design teacher at Takoma Park Middle School, a public magnet school in Silver Spring, Maryland, Bayonet uses media and technology to actively engage her students in STEM learning.

“The more hands-on engineering experiences students receive at a younger age, the more they’ll understand that STEM careers are accessible to them,” said Bayonet. “I know I personally would have flourished if I had this type of learning opportunity and exposure to technology when I was in elementary or middle school.”

“The more hands-on engineering experiences students receive at a younger age, the more they’ll understand that STEM careers are accessible to them.”

At her school, Bayonet is implementing a new technology and design curriculum while teaching the elective class—currently remotely—to students in grades 6–8. The class teaches students about the engineering design process by having them participate in numerous age-appropriate research and iteration activities involving sketching, building, and computer-aided design (CAD).  

“I’m always thinking about what type of lessons will hook my students, especially with my girls and students of color,” Bayonet added. “I want the learning to be fun and creative and different from what my students might expect in a traditional science class. I want them to work through failure, gain perseverance, and ultimately succeed—this is how I fell in love with the topic, and I want my students to experience that, too.”

“I want the learning to be fun and creative and different from what my students might expect in a traditional science class.”

During a recent activity, Bayonet had students build a Rube Goldberg machine using household or recycled materials. While some students were eager to participate using the physical materials, others opted to build their design through animation, which Bayonet appreciated because of its media component.

“I always want to give my students a choice in how they present their work—especially now with us being remote,” she said. “Some of my students were intimidated by building this at home, but showing their work and designs via animation gave them a creative outlet.”

This hands-on and flexible learning approach has contributed in part to the growth and popularity of the technology and design elective among students at the school. “More and more students—especially girls—are participating and becoming enthusiastic in the program, which we love to see,” said Bayonet. “It’s showing them different aspects to STEM that they might otherwise not have the opportunity to experience.” 

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