For the past year a group of 10 East Boston High School (EBHS) students with the guidance of two EBHS teachers have been learning science and helping their community. The students have been reading and creating science non-fiction stories for elementary students at Umana Academy in East Boston. They have also been mentoring 6th graders leading and environmental initiative at Umana.
During all of this, the students were also fundraising for their biggest service learning project – a trip to Arizona to volunteer at the Navajo Nation reservation. The students completed their trip last week and chronicled their activities on a group blog. During the trip, they were able to visit a charter school that is entirely off the grid, learn about sheep farming, work on the sheep farm, help clean up trash, cook traditional Navajo food, and explore the Grand Canyon. Experiential learning at its best!
Many feel that when people refer to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) they are really just talking about science and math. Technology and engineering often get put aside in K-12 classrooms to focus on the fundamentals of science and mathematics. However, things are starting to change. As the need for students with engineering and technology skills increases the need to teach students these skills before they reach college has become apparent.
EdWeek mentions a number of initiatives to bring the T and E in STEM that are gaining momentum in classrooms across the country. Tens of thousands of classrooms are now using the Engineering is Elementary curriculum materials developed by Boston’s own Museum of Science. The new common standards also have a greater focus on engineering skills and an engineering based Advanced Placement (AP) course may be in the works.
The Boston-based non-profit Citizen Schools has long been working with corporate partners to bring exciting STEM experiences into the classroom and give students access to STEM professionals. Now, Citizen Schools will working with corporations on the US2020 project with the goal of having 1 million STEM professionals mentoring K12, college, and graduate students throughout their careers by the year 2020. In addition to changing the landscape of STEM education by giving students these opportunities, they also hope to change the workplace for those in STEM careers by making volunteering a common occurrence. Citizen Schools will be incubating this project until June 2014. Cisco, Cognizant, and SanDisk are the founding corporate partners.
Samidha Sane, 8th grade science teacher and science fair coordinator at the Locke Middle School in Billerica, received the Aerospace Teacher of the Year award from the Massachusetts Wing Civil Air Patrol (the auxiliary wing of the US Air Force). Samidha is now Massachusetts’ aerospace teacher of the year nominee for the entire Northeast region. Depending on the results of the Northeast competition, she could move to the national level.
Samidha’s school, the Locke Middle School, is one of 30 “GEMS” schools that received multi-year grants to expand or start science fair programs and to enable more students to engage in hands-on experience with real-world science practices. As a result, for the last three years, top student researchers at the Locke Middle School have earned a place in the MA State Middle School Science & Engineering Fair, scheduled this year for June 1 at Worcester Technical High School.
GEMS (Gelfand Endeavor in Massachusetts Schools) is a partnership with the Massachusetts State Science & Engineering Fair (MSSEF) that provides schools and science educators with training, resources and tools. Learn more about GEMS and MSSEF’s Curious Minds Initiative.
Congratulations and good luck to Samidha!
Last year, Tyler Dewitt, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology gave an inspiring talk at Tedx Beacon Street, recently made available online.
In short, Tyler believes scientists should present science as a “story.” He suggests that there would be benefits to be had by moving away from the dry textbook-style learning and toward making science more fun and interactive for all students.
Tyler supports STEM education through his involvement with MIT’s K12 video initiative and his own YouTube channel.
The 2012 National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education results were released last month. Based on the responses, the need for increased support to science and math teachers is clear.
The survey, endorsed by numerous professional educator and scientific societies, polled thousands of K-12 teachers from around the nation. Education Week pulled a number of interesting statistics from the report, noting that only one-third of middle school math teachers have a degree in either math or math education. Additionally, a majority of elementary teachers do not feel “very well prepared” to teach science and only 20 percent of them teach science every day. This is especially concerning given the move to the common-core standards. Many of the skills pushed by the new standards are those that teachers report feeling most uncomfortable with, such as having students explain reasoning and support a conclusion.
The Cambridge-based non-profit Science Club for Girls has been partnering with the Boys and Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster to bring hands-on science activities to girls grades 2-7 at their club. A recent grant from the American Association of University Women has allowed Science Club for Girls, along with their partner, Aisling O’Connor, a chemistry professor at Fitchburg State University (FSU) to continue this vital program.
For ten weeks each semester, the girls spend one afternoon a week with a female science or engineering student from FSU. This not only gives them important hands-on science experience, but time with female scientist role models.
~ Shannon Morey
We already knew that the demand for STEM graduates was on the rise to meet the demands of a changing economy, but recently the White House put a big number on how critical the demand really is.
Last week, the Obama Administration designated the effort to increase the number of undergrads with degrees in STEM fields as a Cross-Agency Priority goal. According to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, this means that the effort is, “one of a limited number of such articulated goals designed to focus cross-agency coordination and encourage sharing of best practices among agencies with complementary missions.”
Initially, at least, the CAP goal to increase STEM graduates will focus on five “areas of opportunity”:
- improving STEM teaching and attracting students to STEM courses;
- offering meaningful opportunities for students to engage in STEM research early in their college careers;
- improving mathematics preparation so that students enter college with adequate math skill to tackle science classes;
- supporting women and minorities in STEM education;
- identifying and supporting educational innovation.
See on www.whitehouse.gov
Political jokes aside, Big Bird and his friends at PBS have a key role to play in the future of our youth and the educators responsible for teaching them. Although the continuous television programming offers kids of all ages a stable channel of fulfillment and education, the PBS Teachers STEM Resource Center will help those looking for some online content in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fields. Everything from free webinars, videos, lesson plans to interactive content for grades pre-K to 12.
Acquiring the attention and interest of children is not easy these days with all that high tech gadgetry around but leave it to PBS to push the envelope in expanding the imagination of what the future may hold.
“PBS is well known for science series such as NOVA, Nature and Sid the Science Kid. PBS Teachers offers hundreds of standards-based, online resources designed to help teachers promote understanding of science concepts and development of hands-on science skills.”
So maybe some TV time isn’t all that bad… although it might have some friendly online competition!
See on PBS Teachers.
The Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology/Engineering at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education posted the following notice to its Listserv:
“The release of the second and final public draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is set for the first week in January 2013. In recognition of the hectic schedules in December and the approaching holidays, the NGSS staff wanted to ensure all educators, stakeholders and the public had appropriate access to the draft. We fully encourage all interested parties to review the draft as individuals or in groups and provide feedback to the Lead States and writers. Information about the Next Generation of Science Standards is available at www.nextgenscience.org/.”