MILTON — Santa Rosa County Public Schools and Discovery Education hosted the Second National Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Symposium Jan. 29 to 31.

Approximately 137 school leaders from 20 states met at the Pensacola Beach Hilton to discuss new STEM teaching strategies and visited area schools, according to Discovery Education Senior Vice President Coni Rechner.

This symposium emphasized core concepts of STEM education: collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking, also known as the four C’s. Many business leaders can teach new employees the mechanics of specific jobs but they can't cultivate these skills, Discovery Education Professional Development Content Manager Lynnell Matthews said.

"It was a light bulb for many of our teachers and administrators that are here realizing that STEM doesn't mean science, technology, engineering and math," Matthews said. "(STEM is) the best practices for any content area so it's not content-specific."

"It's really about defining a culture for students to be working together collaboratively to solve problems that may or may not have an answer and to think through and use all the resources at their fingertips," Discovery Education Senior Vice President Coni Rechner said, "which is really what employers are looking for."

Santa Rosa County School District Math and Science Coordinator Jeffery Baugus traveled with several school leaders during the campus visits.

"This initiative has been so successful for us that in year one our teachers asked for additional (professional development) training," Baugus said, "which is rare … They are absorbing this as quickly as they can get it.

"It also gives them a chance to have a peer group of like-minded individuals who are moving in the same direction as them across schools and across the district."