January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

STEM Happens

Posted: Monday, April 1st, 2013

by Rick Pomeroy

Just last week, I had the pleasure of visiting several elementary schools and one high school in Maryland that shared the focus of incorporating STEM as a regular part of their daily curriculum. What was most impressive to me was not the science and math courses that the students were taking, nor the fact that the students at all grade levels appeared to use technology effortlessly. Instead, it was the collaboration of the faculty, staff and administrators and their seemingly universal commitment to doing things differently. The efforts to prepare students to work confidently in an increasingly digital world were evident everywhere I visited and there was a definite feeling of dynamic progress. The reason I found this so impressive is that after countless hours spent participating in STEM Task Force Meetings, STEM Summits, STEM-focused conferences, and NGSS review sessions it was clear to me that the most important factor in the success of these programs was not the technology or content, but the people involved.

Borrowing from Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, I am not sure I can tell you exactly what STEM is but “I know it when I see it”. This phrase clearly describes my experiences last week. I could definitely see STEM but I don’t think I could pinpoint any one (or ten) thing(s) that they were doing that would be defined as STEM-specific curriculum.

For example, elementary school students were using a wide variety of technological tools from kindergarten class to sixth grade simply as universal tools for learning. SmartBoards® allowed kindergarteners to drag and drop pictures of objects that started with “B”, and others used tablets to write and hear the sounds of letters. Fourth graders used simple probes to measure the temperature of compost being “cooked” in 2-liter soda bottles during a science lessons in anticipation of starting a composting project in their school cafeteria. In a third grade math classroom, students measured the circumference of different wheels using rulers and sticky spots to decide which would go further in one full revolution. What I didn’t realize until I visited the STEM classroom was that those students were also building little electric cars, trying to make the fastest car using a common set of materials. The math lesson on circles preceded the car-building activity, making the application of what they had learned a simple process. The key to me was not that they were doing a math lesson on circles but that the lesson from math was so easily applied in the race-car building because the teachers collaborated across grades and disciplines.

My visit to the high school was equally impressive. At this school of 2000 students, 100 in each of the four grade levels had chosen to take part in the STEM academy that included participation in a class each year such as STEM policy or community service. In addition, each student was expected to take part in an internship with a local business or local organization where they gained real world experience. Why did this make such an impression on me? Because the lead teachers for these STEM classes were the English and history teachers. Yes, there were math, science, and engineering teachers in the STEM academy, but the collaboration by all of the teachers across the different subject areas made the entire process more seamless than something special. Each of these teachers shared that they taught traditional classes for the entire student body and one class for the STEM academy, and that all of their students benefited from this school wide collaboration.

Finally, in all of the schools the students I met were confident about what they were doing and anxious to continue their pursuits. The high school students had summer internship plans and had applied to and been accepted by various colleges and universities. They had even won a national competition, put on by the Verizon Foundation, to develop a Smartphone App specifically for high school students.

Clearly, STEM can happen systemically, but only through purposeful collaboration across disciplines. Many of the activities that students were doing could have easily been done without the special technology. For example, felt boards could be used for word sorting, thermometers for measuring the heat produced by composting. Students can do internships without any special technology. What made the experience in the Maryland schools different was the sense of utilizing authentic scientific practices and tools to engage in collaborative problem solving in real world situations. The faculty were collaborating to ensure students heard a common message about the importance of collaboration, solving real world problems, and doing so within the specific confines of their own communities. Just as our ever-growing technological world demands experts in all areas, our students need the talents and expertise of all curriculum areas to be successful in their future careers.

Based on my experiences, our typical bureaucratic approach to implementing STEM may be headed in the wrong direction. I’d like to go out on a limb and suggest that making our current curriculum STEM-centric is probably going to be much easier than modifying what and how we currently teach to a new set of Standards based on the NGSS.  To prepare collaborative, problem solving citizens, we first need to develop and model those skills amongst ourselves as educators.

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Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis and is a past-president of CSTA.

One Response

  1. Thank you Rick Pomeroy for so eloquently seaming together age-old wisdom with STEM innovation in education. I wholeheartedly agree that the magic of tomorrow is made by working collaboratively today.

    I am delighted that Rick had the opportunity to see the great work happening in Maryland. But in California we have Rick Pomeroy, and many leaders like him who have the vision to allow California to invent the future of STEM education.

    Best,
    Marcella Klein Williams
    Chief Education Officer
    California STEM Learning Network

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LATEST POST

Accelerating into NGSS – A Statewide Rollout Series Now Accepting Registrations

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

Are you feeling behind on the implementation of NGSS? Then Accelerating into NGSS – the Statewide Rollout event – is right for you!

WHO SHOULD ATTEND
If you have not experienced Phases 1-4 of the Statewide Rollout, or are feeling behind with the implementation of NGSS, the Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout will provide you with the greatest hits from Phases 1-4!

OVERVIEW
Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout is a two-day training geared toward grade K-12 academic coaches, administrators, curriculum leads, and teacher leaders. Check-in for the two-day rollout begins at 7:30 a.m., followed by a continental breakfast. Sessions run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Day One and from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Day Two.

Cost of training is $250 per attendee. Fee includes all materials, continental breakfast, and lunch on both days. It is recommended that districts send teams of four to six, which include at least one administrator. Payment can be made by check or credit card. If paying by check, registration is NOT complete until payment has been received. All payments must be received prior to the Rollout location date you are attending. Paying by credit card secures your seat at time of registration. No purchase orders accepted. No participant cancellation refunds.

For questions or more information, please contact Amy Kennedy at akennedy@sjcoe.net or (209) 468-9027.

REGISTER

http://bit.ly/ACCELERATINGINTONGSS

DATES & LOCATIONS
MARCH 28-29, 2018
Host: San Mateo County Office of Education
Location: San Mateo County Office of Education, Redwood City

APRIL 10-11, 2018
Host: Orange County Office of Education
Location: Brandman University, Irvine

MAY 1-2, 2018
Host: Tulare County Office of Education
Location: Tulare County Office of Education, Visalia

MAY 3-4, 2018
Host: San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools
Location: West End Educational Service Center, Rancho Cucamonga

MAY 7-8, 2018
Host: Sacramento County Office of Education
Location: Sacramento County Office of Education Conference Center and David P. Meaney Education Center, Mather

JUNE 14-15, 2018
Host: Imperial County Office of Education
Location: Imperial Valley College, Imperial

Presented by the California Department of Education, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association/County Offices of Education, K-12 Alliance @WestEd, California Science Project, and the California Science Teachers Association.

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

by Kelly Patchen

My name is Mrs. Kelly Patchen, and I am proud to be an elementary assistant principal working in the Tracy Unified School District (TUSD) at Louis Bohn and McKinley Elementary Schools. Each of the schools I support are Title I K-5 schools with about 450 students, a diverse student population, a high percentage of English Language Learners, and students living in poverty. We’re also lucky to be part of the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative with the K-12 Alliance. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

2018 CSTA Conference Call for Proposals

Posted: Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

CSTA is pleased to announce that we are now accepting proposals for 90-minute workshops and three- and six-hour short courses for the 2018 California Science Education Conference. Workshops and short courses make up the bulk of the content and professional learning opportunities available at the conference. In recognition of their contribution, members who present a workshop or short course receive 50% off of their registration fees. Click for more information regarding proposals, or submit one today by following the links below.

Short Course Proposal

Workshop Proposal Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

CSTA’s New Administrator Facebook Group Page

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Holly Steele

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From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

Find Your Reason to Engage

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Jill Grace

I was recently reflecting on events in the news and remembered that several years ago, National Public Radio had a story about a man named Stéphane Hessel, a World War II French resistance fighter, Nazi concentration camp survivor, and contributor to the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The story focused on a book he had published, Time for Outrage (2010).

In it, Hessel makes the argument that the worst attitude is indifference:

“Who is in charge; who are the decision makers? It’s not always easy to discern. We’re not dealing with a small elite anymore, whose actions we can clearly identify. We are dealing with a vast, interdependent world that is interconnected in unprecedented ways. But there are unbearable things all around us. You have to look for them; search carefully. Open your eyes and you will see. This is what I tell young people: If you spend a little time searching, you will find your reasons to engage. The worst attitude is indifference. ‘There’s nothing I can do; I get by’ – adopting this mindset will deprive you of one of the fundamental qualities of being human: outrage.  Our capacity for protest is indispensable, as is our freedom to engage.”

His words make me take pause when I think of the status of science in the United States. A general “mistrust” of science is increasingly pervasive, as outlined in a New Yorker article from the summer of 2016. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.