Category Archives: STEM

Good Idea Grant

With today’s budget constraints, teachers are getting more creative in finding ways to support innovation in their classrooms. A Hawaii teacher we work with was awarded a Good Idea Grant last year and used the funds to integrate technology into her middle school math classroom. We were inspired by her dedication and creativity, and excited about the impact her “good idea” had upon her students.

If you have an exciting curriculum idea that involves your IAAK supported software or hardware solution(s), we want to hear about it! Consider applying for a Good Idea Grant and use our team as a resource to help brainstorm ideas, assist in the application process, and if you achieve success, to support the implementation of your idea!

As stated in the application, “Good Idea Grants are designed to support K-12 teachers and schools in their efforts to encourage a curriculum that is driven by problem-solving, discovery, exploratory learning, and requires students to actively engage a situation in order to find its solution. Students, therefore, become creative, innovative, and critical thinkers”.

Grants up to $3,000 each will be awarded to support innovative programs that strive to increase student interest and academic achievement.

Grants up to $7,500 each will be awarded for the development, improvement or expansion of innovative instructional programs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) as well as programs that integrate and apply STEM learning across other disciplines.

Have a good idea? Go for it and let us know how we can help!

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STEM in the Elementary Years

Hear diverse perspectives regarding STEM in the elementary years in this Learning.com webinar on April 12 at 11:00 am PT.  Dr. David Thornburg, award-winning futurist and founder of the Thornburg Center, will discuss the reasons why educators must make STEM a priority from a global perspective, and provide ideas to support efforts.  Former district-level administrator and funding expert Mona McCoy will provide concrete ideas on how you can find funding to implement STEM programs.  And teachers Kelly Crowley and Jennifer Rosser from New Hanover will share their classroom experiences with STEM solutions.  The focus will be on the why, the how, and the how-to.  Click here to register.  I’ll be present!

STEM after-school

I was very pleased to learn that the Obama administration is pressing for more STEM-focused after-school educational programs.  In a recent report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, an emphasis is placed on launching a coordinated initiative to create STEM-based after-school and extended-day activities.  Interesting to mention is the focus on “coordinated”, which refers to the Department of Education working with the National Science Foundation.  The initiative called INSPIRE will focus on “individualized, transforming experiences with STEM subjects”.  The council suggests that 21st Century Community Learning Centers federal funds be used to fund such STEM projects.  Learn more by reading Education Week’s Beyond School blog.

STEM & Girls

Let’s keep the research theme going for this week… unfortunately, these findings aren’t so encouraging.  A study conducted by Florida Gulf Coast University and the University of Colorado at Boulder  on “Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math” found that girls in the U.S. are not any more interested in STEM careers than they were 10 or 20 years ago.  The study showed that as students progress through school, interest in science wanes.  Researchers found that “… two-thirds of young children (boys and girls alike) said they like science.”  However, in middle school, the numbers dwindle, with many girls who take science in middle school, not continuing science study in high school.  The researchers point to a few possible explanations.  I’m highlighting just a couple – a “chilly” classroom climate for girls and a lack of female role models in science.  Think about your school’s science department – do these apply?

This is the way students should learn.

This story blew me away.  This is the way students should learn. 

Thirteen seventh- and eighth-graders at Potomac School signed up for a science elective.  They were given the challenge:  Take a photo of the curvature of the Earth and spend just $200 to do it.  Quite a challenge, right?  (I’m not sure I could figure this one out!)  Well, guess what, they did. 

The students met twice a week throughout the year to conquer the problem.  They started with a digital camera which they programmed to take photos and video several times a minute.  Then, they bought a cell phone that had a GPS function and installed software that relayed the phone’s location to the Internet using a program called InstaMapper.  Since the stratosphere would be 70 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, the students placed the phone and camera in a cooler with hand warmers.  Finally, the students needed to determine at what angle to hang the cooler so that the camera would get shots of the Earth’s edge, not just clouds.  The plan?  The balloon would rise above the clouds and in the thinner atmosphere, the lack of pressure would cause the balloon to expand from six to 15 feet in diameter and eventually pop.  Then the device would fall to the Earth with a small parachute.

Come launch day, the students drove to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.  One student brought his dad’s iPad which they used to connect to the Internet and follow the balloon.  After the balloon rose above the clouds, the cell phone signal faded.  The students constantly checked the iPad to see if the signal returned.  It did, three hours later, marking the device’s reentry.  The students followed the tracking and found the orange parachute on the other side of Chesapeake Bay.  When they checked the camera, they found amazing pictures of the Earth’s curvature.  Mission accomplished.  Simply incredible.  Talk about building problem-solving, critical-thinking, science, and math skills while  harnessing the power of technology!

STEM in the early years

I attended the Learning.com and eSchoolNews’ webinar, Integrating STEM in the Elementary Years: Why It’s Critical to Start Early.  The presenters were Celeste Baine, Director of Engineering Education Services Center, and Diana Laboy-Rush, Product Manager of Learning.com’s STEM Solution.  Overall, the webinar reinforced some general big ideas about STEM curriculum.  I’ve summarized them here:

  • Elementary students are natural engineers.  By nature, they are curious, inquisitive, and willing to take risks.  This is why educators need to capitalize on this developmental stage to ensure continuous interest and involvement in STEM.
  • The very nature of engineering builds problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, which are applicable to all arenas of learning and life.
  • The need exists to help students understand that engineers are the designers of our world.  Engineers are the ones who create the things we like and appreciate in life – examples provided:  cell phones, email, the “yellow line” when watching football, roller coaster rides, etc. Continue reading →

STEM in Elementary Schools

With regards to STEM, much of the emphasis has been on generating interest and engagement at the high school and higher education level both locally and nationally.  What resources and programs exist for STEM at the elementary school level?  And, why is it vital that we generate interest in the early years?  There is a free webinar on January 19th at 10:00 a.m. devoted to discussing the integration of STEM at the elementary school level.  Celeste Baine, Director of the Engineering Education Service Center, and Diana Laboy-Rush, Manager of STEM programs at Learning.com, will share resources, tools, and best practices.  I’ll be attending!  If you’d like to attend, click here.

Computer Science – grim statistics

Given the big push from above to focus on STEM, it is surprising to read these statistics reported in a recent article in The Washington Post:

  • Nationally, the percentage of schools that offer an introductory computer science course dropped from 78 percent in 2005 to 65 percent this year.
  • Similarly, enrollment in computer science AP courses decreased from 40 percent to 27 percent.

Data according to a survey by the Computer Science Teachers Association.

Chris Stephenson, executive director of the New York-based Computer Science Teachers Association highlights some very interesting and concerning observations:

  • “…a generation of teenagers great at using computers will be unlikely to play a role in the way computer technology shapes lives in the future…”
  • “Their knowledge of technology is very broad but very shallow.” Of course, these facts have economic implications for the U.S. Stephenson states, “If you look at history, the nations with economic superiority are building the tools the rest of the world is using.”

The question still remains: how do we get more young people interested in STEM?

STEM in Hawaii

It is not news that growth in math-intensive science and engineering jobs is outpacing overall job growth by three to one.  Or, that in the U.S., only about 5% of all bachelor’s degrees are being earned in engineering.  STEM resurfaced recently in the headlines with Obama reiterating the importance of STEM (for more info on his presentation, click here), focusing on three priorities:

  1. increase STEM literacy so all students can think critically in science, technology, engineering and math
  2. improve the quality of math and science teaching so American students no longer are outperformed by those in other nations
  3. expand STEM education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups, including women and minorities

Obama and other STEM policy agendas view public-private partnerships as key…examples include: Continue reading →