Featured #MSUrbanSTEM Sustainability Fellow: Marianna Jennings

Sustainability Fellow: Marianna Jennings

Bio:  I currently teach IB Mathematical Studies and Honors Pre-Calculus at Prosser Career Academy High School.  This is my thirteenth year in CPS. I love working with my students and want to spread the good news about the work we do here at Prosser!  On a personal note, my husband and three sons are all teachers! In my spare time, I enjoy playing with my granddaughter Molly – we talk about math all the time!


Full STEAM Ahead

When I started this year as an #MSUrbanSTEM Sustainability Fellow, I focused on supporting and encouraging others to embrace STEM.  While Molly and I have both been involved with mentoring new teachers, I think my journey has really been about my own growth mindset towards STEM.  When I think about STEM, I think about students struggling with a question. Really, STEM begins with my own struggle. How do I take something that could be considered routine and raise the bar?  For example, instead of doing a three dimensional volume problem with a pyramid or a cone, I gave the students a heart shaped lollipop and asked them to find the volume.  It was an open-ended question to which I didn’t have the answer.  The students came up with unique ways to divide the heart into circles and triangles. (And they really enjoyed the lollipop too!).   When we’ve celebrated PI Day, I usually show a funny powerpoint about Pi with silly and interesting facts. I found on-line that NASA had PI day activities where students could engage in activities where they use Pi to find measurements of planets. 

One other example was when I gave the students a sheet of paper (rectangle shaped) and a ruler.  They had to cut out square corners. They determined the side length of the square.  The sides were then folded up and I asked the students to come up with the general formula for volume.  They needed to find a formula that worked no matter what size square was cut out of the corners. The group discussions were amazing.  Normally, I would put the diagram up on the screen and have a discussion about it. With this new STEM-minded approach, students really dug into the problem and came up with the general formula.  

Sharing these ideas with my colleagues and then with the new teachers I am  mentoring, I believe that I am spreading the idea of STEM and struggle. And, the struggle isn’t just about the students, it is about the struggle for ME and how I look at lesson planning!  

Special note:  I am so fortunate to work with Molly Lahart this year.  I really valued her thoughtful insight and support with questions I had about tasks and activities.  I also appreciated her mentoring new high school math teachers. Together, we are a pretty strong voice for change!