GK-12 Rocky Mountain Regional Conference

From over 5 states and 16 GK-12 projects, Fellows, PIs, Project Managers, Teachers, Evaluators, and NSF staff came to participate in the three-day NSF GK-12 Rocky Mountain Regional Conference on October 7th-9th, 2010. The conference was held on the University of Colorado Denver Campus in downtown Denver and hosted collectively by the GK-12 programs at the University of Colorado Denver and Boulder. Attendees gathered together to share best practices, collaborate, attend presentations and poster sessions related to GK-12 activities, and discuss models for program sustainability. Additionally, this regional conference highlighted a state-wide event called STEMapalooza which is held at the Colorado Convention Center. This two-day exploration showcases science, technology, engineering, and mathematics initiatives in the state of Colorado and draws in over 10,000 attendees.

Conference speakers included higher education faculty, industry leaders, government partners, research evaluators, and K-12 educational leaders to present and discuss current STEM, communication, and GK-12 issues at a more in depth level. Keynote speakers included Loren Cobb, Associate Professor at UC Denver, who reminisced on his journey when his concern for human suffering led a quiet mathematician to exchange the comforts of an academic life for freelance work in the jungles, deserts, and high mountains of South America, and Tamara Sumner, Executive Director of Digital Learning Sciences, on meeting the need to customize instruction for the diverse learning needs of the 21st century by designing and disseminating innovative curricular materials for re-use beyond the project boundaries and lifespan.

Attendees participated in an inquiry workshop facilitated by Dr. Barry Kluger-Bell, previous Assistant Director of the Institute for Inquiry at the Exploratorium science museum in San Francisco. During this time, Dr. Kluger-Bell modeled a structure for inquiry teaching and learning on the topic of dissolving which equated in great discussion among the groups as well as great resources to use in future GK-12 endeavors and K-12 planning.

The conference culminated with a luncheon panel of GK-12 projects: The University of Texas at Arlington - MAVS Project, University of Colorado Boulder - TEAMS, and The University of Colorado Denver - Transforming Experiences. Projects presented on their goals, activities, findings, and shortfalls, with the audience engaging in a long Q&A with the panel afterwards.

Overall, the conference was reported as a huge success with several attendees asking when and where the next one will be held. The opportunity to discuss such important issues at a more intimate level proved very beneficial to the individual projects and GK-12 participants. Additionally, several participants walked away with collaborative ties and resources from other universities. We look forward to future partnerships and regional conferences!