Gov. Pat McCrory was supposed to give a speech during his visit to Winston-Salem Tuesday.

But he never made it to the podium that had been set up for him at the head of the Forsyth Tech’s “wet lab” in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter’s 525@vine building.

“It was a great speech,” he said to a crowd of primarily state-level education officials, area school district superintendents and a handful of Forsyth Tech students.

Instead, he tore up his prepared remarks and asked the nanotechnology students who had just presented their work from several Forsyth Tech classes how to get more young people interested in science.

“Probably the best thing for us to do, instead of talking to each other, is listen to this generation,” McCrory said, addressing members of the State Board of Education and officials from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction gathered in Winston-Salem for the board’s fall planning session.

McCrory told the Forsyth Tech students, who were a mix of genders, ages and races, that the state needs more people like them.

“I’m heading from businesses right now that they’re not finding enough people like you,” he said. “We need to build more of you.

“You need to tell us what resources we need to make this happen.”

Forsyth Tech student Jack Landgraf told McCrory, “Show them science doesn’t have to be boring.”

Over the next two days the state board will focus its attention on such issues, dedicating this biannual planning session to STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — education.

“We always have a focus on innovation and one of the legs of innovation is a STEM education,” said Bill Cobey, chair of the State Board of Education.

Tuesday afternoon’s presentation was the culmination in a day-long study of problem- and project-based learning. The same methodology Forsyth Tech professor Mehrdad Tajkarimi used to teach his students the chemistry, physics and math needed in his nanotechnology courses was at work earlier in the day just down the hall from the wet lab.

Sixth- and eighth-graders from Mount Airy City Schools moved their classrooms to the Innovation Quarter for the day to demonstrate problem- and project-based learning at the middle school level.

Championed by a partnership between the Wake Forest School of Medicine and the University of Texas at Dallas School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics to improve student achievement in STEM subjects, the innovative teaching method encourages students to seek out the information they need to complete a problem or project, instead of giving them all the information first and asking them to use it in a problem or project later.

State board members will continue their work session today with visits to three local elementary schools and an afternoon of panel discussions and presentations at Salem College.

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aherron@wsjournal.com (336) 727-4068 @ArikaHerron

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