The Out-of-Door Academy fifth-graders bustle into their new Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) lab with binders in hand and ready to learn. Their new STEM lab teacher, Derek Wiberg, is enthusiastic as he projects information on the new Mimio projector that the school has installed in all the classrooms.
The projector reads in bold letters, “Why am I having you tie knots?” Wiberg’s main goal for the class is for children to use problem-solving techniques to figure out how things work. He projects a picture of a knot that students are required to make. His goal is for children to figure out how to tie the knot and be able to teach others how to make it, as well.
For extra encouragement, Wiberg has arranged for the first-grade class to come in the following day. The fifth-graders will teach the first-graders how to make that same knot through presentations they make with iMovie on their new Macbook Pros.
Wiberg says he is “a kid at heart” and loves joking with his students. Prior to becoming a teacher, Wiberg was a software designer for a number of companies. While working at Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston, he would frequent the New England Aquarium on lunch breaks. He began to volunteer and do other work with children at the aquarium and realized, “I like this stuff.” He went on to receive his master’s in Mid-Career Math and Science from Harvard University.
Since then, Wiberg has taught at middle and high schools. He moved 10 weeks ago to Sarasota, leaving his position at Conrad Schools of Science, in Delaware, where he was department chair. He brings enthusiasm to the job and says the new STEM classroom is a great space for children’s learning.
“They picked me, but I wanted to pick where I wanted to be, too,” Wiberg says. “What I am loving here is the collaboration.”