Enthusiasm is contagious, as they say. That’s one of the underlying theories behind CalTeach, a California program that aims to inspire K-12 students by harnessing older students’ enthusiasm for STEM subjects.
At the same time, CalTeach enables those older students — college STEM majors — to become credentialed teachers during their undergrad experience. “We are producing mathematicians, scientists and engineers who have chosen to teach,” says engineering professor and Berkeley CalTeach do-director George Johnson.
Among the benefits of the program is the fact that it offers an opportunity for STEM majors to give teaching a try and determine whether or not it’s for them. Furthermore, “Learning the subject and learning to teach it at the same time really means unpacking the subject,” says Shelly Seethaler, staff director of CalTeach at UC San Diego. “You can’t just plug in formulas for gas, temperature and pressure and come up with answers. You also need to be able to explain, gas, temperature and pressure, and what’s going on and why.” Via www.universityofcalifornia.edu
A new report, “Road Map to Renewal,” from the President’s Council on Jobs & Competitiveness, calls for better STEM education in grades K-12 as a foundation for future job creation. The Jobs Council advises the administration on how to ensure long-term American competitiveness in the work force, as well as ways in which to spark short-term job creation. In addition to emphasizing STEM education, the report, released yesterday, addresses the importance of investing in innovation and revitalizing the manufacturing sector. Via www.whitehouse.gov
For Stephan Turnipseed, winning a seventh grade science fair was transformative experience. The current LEGO Education President keeps the framed certificate won at the time of his science fair victory close at hand to remind him of the power of discovery, which his company harnesses so well to the benefit of generations of students. “Our dramatic ability to engage and motivate students, and unlock creativity [is] dramatic,” Turnipseed says, “Our strongest presence is in the STEM area.” Via gettingsmart.com
What preconceived notions do middle school students have about scientists? The image of the myopic, middle-aged, lab-coat-wearing geek flew out the window for a group of 7th graders, who drew their impressions of scientists before and after a field trip to Fermilab to meet real, working scientists on the job. Via ed.fnal.gov
With the lofty goal of reaching one quarter of America’s students, the National Park Service is assuming a leadership role is supporting environmental literacy. Through virtual field trips, teacher professional development and partnerships — as well as facilitating access to the parks for students — Park Service leaders aim to reach students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to benefit from all that our national parks have to offer. “The benefits of multiday, residential, outdoor education programs are very well documented and well embraced, but they are expensive to provide and require a lot of resources,” said Julia Washburn, the Park Service’s associate director for interpretation and education. “This means they are typically a deeper experience for fewer kids. Shorter single-day, field-trip experiences are less expensive, and can serve more students, but their impact, while still beneficial, isn’t as great.” Via www.edweek.org
Boston Museum of Science president and director Yannis N. Miaoulis has a nice piece in US News & World Report about the importance of museums to STEM success. “Science centers can be a powerful resource for teachers in STEM fields,” he writes. “School curricula traditionally focus more on the natural world, not the technological one. But it is the human-made world that facilitates 95 percent of daily experience.”
What better way to spark an early interest in science in students than to let them play with LEGOs! Meadowbrook School in Massachusetts did just that, with impressive results. The school entered — and won — the LEGO Smart Creativity Contest. Students used LEGOs and NXT robotics in their creation of a “green” city, complete with solar panels installed by robots, and wind turbines. Taking their creativity even further, the students produced this original song and video showing off their project.
Today, the Boston Herald launches a five-part series on Boston public schools that exemplify education that works. The schools included in the series: TechBoston Academy, UP Academy, Orchard Gardens, and Joseph Lee Elementary School. According to today’s blog post by the Herald‘s Jessica Heslam, the secrets to the success of these schools include longer school days and a longer school year, innovative teachers and administrators, and students groomed for college from a young age.
While Massachusetts students came out on top in 4th and 8th grade math and reading as measured by the recently-released National Assessment of Educational Progress exam (aka “the nation’s report card”), there’s work to be done to address a persistent gap in achievement between white and minority students. Governor Patrick and state Secretary of Education Paul Reville have some plans in the works that aim to do just that. Via www.bostonglobe.com
It stands to reason that the more time a student spends learning a subject, the better that student will perform on tests of that subject matter. A recently-released report from the National Center on Time & Learning erases any doubt about it — where science is concerned, at least.
Five case studies look at public schools, including the Matthew J. Kuss Middle School, in Fall River, MA, where the school day was extended by 100 minutes per day beginning in the ’06-’07 school year. Science learning benefited from the lengthened school day, and so did the students’ performance on the science portion of the MCAS.
Supported with funding from the Noyce Foundation, the report, “The Power of More Time to Deepen Inquiry and Engagement,” lists “key successful practices” identified across the five case-study schools. It concludes, “Without fundamentally restructuring the school calendar—particularly at the elementary and middle school levels—to add more learning time and prioritizing science during that time, most American students will simply not spend enough time to become either proficient in, or excited about, science.” Via blogs.edweek.org
The Massachusetts State Science & Engineering Fair (MSSEF) is committed to increasing awareness of, exposure to, and participation in inquiry-based learning through the development of science and engineering projects by middle school and high school students, and to showcase and celebrate that learning.