Attention public school educators! Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds are part of the federal stimulus laws passed by Congress to address the needs of schools as they recover from the COVID pandemic. ESSER II funding is set to expire in September 2023, and any money not spent will be gone forever.

Professional development, like the Constructing Modern Knowledge Summer Institute, is an allowable expenditure of these funds. In fact, using grant funds for professional development is a key way to make sure that funds used for technology has lasting effects. Investing in educators is an investment that doesn’t expire.

On December 6, 2022, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education, Cindy Marten, released a letter to clarify that federal funds, including ESSER and GEER funds, may be used to support STEM educational strategies. 

“STEM education can also provide relevant, problem-, place-, and project-based learning experiences that support students in learning new content and concepts and re-engage them in their learning.” – U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education, Cindy Marten

The letter also includes an enclosure that specifies five allowable categories of expenditures, one of which is, “Recruiting, preparing, and supporting a diverse STEM educator workforce, increasing educators’ knowledge and expertise in STEM, and equipping educators to meet the diverse needs of all students.” Districts may use the ESSER funds on any “activity authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.”

Educators inventing the future at CMK

Making the Case

The Constructing Modern Knowledge Summer Institute is a dynamic professional development opportunity designed to support project-based STEM learning. Research has consistently shown that “learning by doing” is an effective way to engage students in STEM subjects and help them understand the relevance of these topics to their daily lives. At CMK, teachers have the opportunity to experience this kind of learning firsthand, which allows them to model it for their students. By providing educators with access to a wide array of technologies and guiding them in developing imaginative projects, CMK helps teachers gain competence and confidence in themselves as learners.

At CMK, our faculty members are experts in supporting learners at all levels of experience. We prioritize the learner above all else, ensuring that each participant feels supported and encouraged throughout the program. Our faculty members are passionate about helping educators gain new skills and strategies to enhance their teaching practices and positively impact their students’ learning outcomes. Through hands-on experiences, engaging discussions, and collaborative projects, CMK provides a unique and impactful professional development opportunity for educators looking to enhance their STEM teaching skills.

The hosts of the Constructing Modern Knowledge Summer Institute are the authors of the groundbreaking book, Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, known world-wide as the “bible” of the classroom maker movement. Invent to Learn presents a wealth of research findings that support hands-on, project-based learning for all students, including girls and other underrepresented groups. For example, one study found that “Girls who make, design, and create things with electronic tools develop stronger interest and skills in computer science and engineering.”— MakeHers: Engaging Girls and Women in Technology through Making, Creating, and Inventing

This research underscores the value of using ESSER funds to participate in Constructing Modern Knowledge. All research cited in Invent to Learn is compiled on the Invent to Learn Resource site, which includes resources about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion supporting project-based learning An example of this is an analysis of K-12 education makerspaces nationwide from the ExCITe Center’s Learning Innovation initiative at Drexel School of Education. The research highlights how makerspaces foster a range of positive student learning outcomes across a broad spectrum of students, including English language learners.

A Case Study for Using ESSER for STEM Professional Development

Are you interested in attending Constructing Modern Knowledge but wondering how to fund it? Check out this article from Edweb titled “Using ESSER Funds Effectively for PBL and STEM: Advice From the Experts.” The article showcases a district that recognized the importance of investing in sustainable solutions for both teachers and students in the long term. To achieve their goals of integrating STEM into all subject areas and fostering collaboration, communication, and problem-solving skills, they invested in makerspaces, STEM labs, technology for classrooms and libraries, and professional development programs. Without investing in teacher training, the money spent on technology would have been wasted.

If you’re interested in attending Constructing Modern Knowledge, reach out to the person in charge of federal funds in your district and let them know. And if you’d like more information about how attendance at the institute is supported by research, feel free to contact us.