Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Schoodic Education and Research Center

July 28, 2013

Science teachers

During the first week in July 70 Maine middle school science teachers met at the Schoodic Education and Research Center for professional development. The faculty was from UMaine and the teachers attended as part of the Maine Physical Sciences Partnership. The partnership is supported by a National Science Foundation grant and includes 18 school districts, the Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center) at UMaine, several nonprofit organizations and the Maine Department of Education. You can learn more and see photos at this link.

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Summer off? Yeah, right! I’m already excited for next year!

July 1, 2013

So what does a middle school teacher do with his/her extra time now that school is over and he/she is getting antsy?  I don’t know about you, but I’m already thinking about how I can rearrange my classroom for next year.  I’ve checked out ideas on Pinterest, checked in with other teacher-friends, and have pretty much figured out how I’m going to do it.

So, what’s next, you ask?  Hmm, professional development!  I love to learn new things, which is good, since I will be teaching two different subjects next year than I taught this year, and I’ve never taught of them before.  Though I have a bit of anxiety about the switch, I’m really looking forward to it.  I’m also really lucky to have two other math/science teachers at my grade level who are willing to share their knowledge and materials with me.

Participants at the STEM Camp learn about plant life.

Participants at the STEM Camp learn about plant life.

Besides the TON of reading I’ll be doing during the next two months (and the school year), I’ve also chosen to immerse myself in STEM activities.  And here’s the coolest part…there’s a week-long STEM Collaborative Educators’ Camp that is absolutely FREE to Maine residents (and they provide housing too)!  There are varied classes being offered focused on teachers of grades 6-12.  I’ve looked through the brochure of courses (ranging from origami to and am torn about what I will attend, but having heard feedback from some who attended last year’s camp, I know I’m going to walk away with a toolbox full of new techniques, strategies, and knowledge for me to apply to my teaching.  Also, beyond classroom (both inside and out) learning, there are fun, experiential activities for those who want to participate, ranging from ziplining to swimming.  I just know that is something I should attend because of this quote from their website:

“Our hope is to encourage Maine STEM educators to share their passions and talents with one another to form a                   community vested in improving student learning in STEM topics across Maine.”

Doesn’t that tie into the Bright Futures Report beautifully?  A focus on collaboration and learning sounds perfect!

You can register right at the website I’ve linked above.  Hopefully I’ll meet some of you there!

Thank you to Lisa Smith for her permission to write about the camp.  She’s the Outreach/Camp Director and is happy to answer any questions you may have!

P.S. Bring your insect repellant and sun screen for those outdoor options!

THERE’S STILL TIME . . . to attend the NELMS Annual Conference

March 25, 2013

It’s a sure sign that Spring is right around the corner.  “Meeting the Multi-Faceted Needs of the Middle Level Learner” convenes next week, April 4 & 5, in Providence, Rhode Island, where there will be green grass and blooming flowers(I hope!).  Don’t miss two days of inspiring, invigorating, relevant professional development.  If you need help or ideas on how to fund this incredible opportunity, contact the NELMS office, and check out the full Annual Conference program.

Inspiring Keynote speakers:

Tom Burton on “Magic, Motivation & Our ‘Sparkling’ Middle Level Students”

Carol Ann Tomlinson on “The Demographics, Research & Ethics Of Differentiation”.

Engaging ticketed luncheons and targeted full and half day sessions (a sampling includes):

“It’s More Than A Name” – Tom Burton

“Listen To What The Students Say: Student Profiles That Invite Differentiation”  – Carol Ann Tomlinson

Student Success Plans + “Cutting Edge, New” Advisory = Student Success – Earle Bidwell

Digital Tools for Project Based Learning – Jill Spencer

How Can We Use Strategies and Assessments to Prepare for the Transition to Common Core State Standards? – Deb Scarpelli

Exploring and Applying Web 2.0 Tools and Resources in the Middle – Chris Toy

Courageous and Collaborative Leadership in the Middle – Lyn Ward Healy

Differentiation and the Brain: How Neuroscience Supports the Learner Friendly Classroom – Carol Ann Tomlinson

Timely and relevant concurrent workshop sessions based on the concepts contained in Turning Points 2000 and This We Believe

Girls and Science

March 2, 2013

I'm working on an interesting project that is looking to create a “greengineering” magnet school in a mid-sized city. One aspect of that project is getting girls interested in STEM. I was surprised, when we looked at the research, just how clear it is that girls are still underrepresented in STEM:

  • Lower enrollments in STEM-related coursework
  • Lower participation in STEM workforce
  • Greater disparity for girls of color & ELL
  • Gendering of educational trajectories remains a problem
  • Implicit bias is a problem
  • Women with graduate and post-graduate STEM degrees more likely to work part-time

This made me look back at the Bright Futures Core Practices. These 3 popped out at me as relating to the issue.

Core Practice 1. Students have access to curriculum that is relevant, challenging, integrative, and exploratory and is organized and executed to maximize accessibility for all students. – Are we creating enough opportunities for girls to explore science in ways that are relevant and challenging?

Core Practice 3. Teachers in all content areas use teaching and learning practices that are anchored in 21st century literacies. – STEM is certainly a literacy for modern times. How can we better include girls in not just mastering STEM but becoming engaged by it?

Core Practice 5. All middle level students experience learning opportunities that emphasize creativity and innovation. – STEM is one way we can involve youth in creativity and innovation. How can we better involve girls in this?

Of course, we shouldn't worry about only getting girls involved with science and engineering. Schools have a responsibility to help all its students (regardless of gender) to become more interested and passionate about STEM. But researching girls and science made me think of another recommendation from the Bright Futures report: Core Practice 2. Teachers use research-based instructional practices in their classrooms that are effective in increasing the learning and achievement of young adolescents.

Looking at that research showed me that, If we fall into the trap of focusing on STEM in the traditional ways, we run the risk of loosing half our population's interest in STEM through attrition as they progress through middle school and into high school and on to college. The strategies for interesting girls in science are not the same strategies that we have been using, nor are they the strategies the work for boys. According to the National Science Foundation, these six strategies are key to engaging girls:

  • Mentoring
  • Experiential learning
  • STEM career perceptions
  • Importance of 21st century skills
  • Fostering persistence
  • Creating a culture of high expectations

Further, according to Girlstart, a nonprofit dedicated to providing after-school and enrichment programs to get girls interested in the sciences, these strategies help girls:

  • Start young
  • Explore with your kids
  • Look for enrichment programs that make science fun
  • Encourage girls to stick with the sciences
  • Show your daughters how science can be applied to solve real-world problems

And a recent study, published in the British Journal of Educational Psychology, showed that girls are more interested in studying subjects such as physics or IT if they are presented in a female-friendly way. Teaching girls about the use of lasers in cosmetic surgery or how to order clothes online encourages them to study science, the research suggests. In the report, Dr Sylvie Kerger, of the University of Luxembourg, said: “There was clear evidence that applying female friendly topics increased girls’ interest in these scientific disciplines… Girls were more interested in social and real contexts such as decline of forests whereas boys clearly found mechanics and technology more compelling.”

So maybe we should be working to insure that our middle grades programs feature hands-on science and technology activities, field trips, role models, and female-friendly contexts for learning content. And maybe Maine's middle schools should also pursue successful, evidence-based curricula that have demonstrated their ability to deliver positive outcomes and success in stimulating girls’ interest in STEM subjects and instilling self-confidence in their abilities, such as those from Girlstart, Great Science for Girls, and the Maine Girls Collaborative Project.




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