STEM and Service – Content in Context
Posted: Tuesday, March 1st, 2011
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
Districts across the nation and California are turning their attention to this thing called STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – both for its college and career readiness implications and for the funding that supports it at all levels of education, pre-K to university. While there are many “definitions,” the basic idea is that STEM is any of the four subjects in the acronym, alone or combined, taught with contextual application at the core. While a biology class may teach STEM-related topics it’s the agriculture/natural resources class that is applying them. When teachers from these classes collaborate and delve into problem-based projects with their instruction, students are better prepared for higher level courses and/or jobs in any of the STEM fields. STEM is something more than either class can accomplish alone.
Congratulations are due to teachers and after school programs in five regions spanning California. They were awarded grant funds to move their understanding of STEM forward this spring by using service learning as a teaching strategy to apply STEM content to a local community issue or need. These educators are being supported with STEM Service Learning Initiative funds through regional grants funded by the California Department of Education and CalServe Funding from Learn & Serve America. The projects these teachers will develop with their students will be both examples of the applied use of learning that is at the core of STEM education and the consideration of solutions to local problems that is at the core of Service Learning. Using science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics students in these classes will develop and implement a project that meets a real need. One example might be in a math or physical science class where students learn how to use watt meters and measure energy use at home or school. They make calculations, analyze the data, and formulate recommendations on ways to save energy which are then communicated through public service announcements, outreach and lessons for younger students, or policy/purchasing recommendations to their school district. In addition the grant supports the teachers’ access to STEM and Service Learning professional resources, events, and partnerships that can enhance what Service Learning accomplishes in schools.
Ideally these projects enrich content students are expected to learn and then make it necessary for students to use the skills they learn to apply that knowledge. Districts that are working on the alignment of curriculum, instruction, and assessment know what their essential learnings are and what they to intend to assess. A problem-based service project can become that instruction and assessment vehicle by incorporating some of the skills and knowledge identified in essential standards. The rigor of problem-based curriculum demands students understand in depth, rather than superficially, what they are accountable to know and do at their grade-level. Finally what students learn by “doing” they retain. The discipline they learn by showing up on time for a public event, the products they produce that need to be publishing quality, and the communication with adults from project partnerships are all work-place skills that California and global employers want employees to have. They are the qualities communities want their future members to have.
Visit and preview some of the partners CDE and the participating county offices have connected with to support this work:
- California STEM Service Learning Initiative: www.calstem.org
- Project Citizen: www.civicmissionofschools.org
- EPICS High: www.engineering.purdue.edu/epicshs
- Forestry Institute for Teachers (FIT): www.forestryinstitute.org
- Project Learning Tree (PLT) GreenSchools! project: http://www.pltgreenschools.org
- Learn and Serve America: www.servicelearning.org
- Youth Development Network: www.ydnetwork.org
- National Youth Leadership Council: www.nylc.org
- STEM Equity Pipeline Project: www.stemequitypipeline.org
- Your local US Fish and Wildlife Service, water agencies, power companies, and more
Additional information about the California Department of Education related programs can be found at:
- STEM at CDE: http://www.cde.ca.gov/pd/ca/sc/stemintrod.asp
- Service Learning at CDE: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/sl/
Marian Murphy-Shaw is student services director for the Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s secretary.
Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
by Jessica Sawko
In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.
At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ai/infomeeting.asp.) Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
by Carol Peterson
1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/25/google-offers-360-degree-tours-of-us-national-parks/. Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!
Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award
The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Peter A’hearn
NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?
The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt
Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…