Math and Science Outside the Classroom

[In today’s world it’s not enough to just target STEM during school hours. I serve on the Board of the Neighborhood Learning Alliance (NLA) in Pittsburgh, an umbrella organization that provides funding and programmatic opportunities for community and faith-based organizations to work with young people in after-school and out-of-school programs. Several years ago NLA developed its Warrior program where high school students are trained to work with younger and older learners. Today over a thousand learners gain new opportunities through the NLA Warrior program. It’s exactly the type of program that every community should develop. In the following article you’ll discover similar programs around the country. You have a chance to help these projects by donating to DonorsChoose, an organization I use to support programs in the Pittsburgh area.]

April 4, 2017 by William Broman

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Guest Post By Science Everywhere, a collaboration between Overdeck Family Foundation and the Simons Foundation

Teachers across the country and at all grade levels are coming up with fascinating outside-school math and science projects on DonorsChoose.org through the Science Everywhere campaign. Thanks to match funding from Overdeck Family Foundation and the Simons Foundation, everyday donors can double their impact by contributing to projects that speak to them. Projects that still need funding range from a gardening project at a Florida elementary school, to “weekend weather kits” for students in Missouri, to robotics materials for high schoolers in Indiana.

Five projects that need funding to become a reality:

Research shows that outside-school engagement is essential to boosting math and science learning. Viewing learning opportunities as “charging stations” helps to visualize why it’s so important: students who are surrounded by opportunities to “charge up” their learning – attending afterschool programs, going to museums, exploring science centers – can apply the concepts they learn in class to everyday life and develop a fluency with math and science that helps them succeed. Students who live in “dead zones” with fewer opportunities to do math and science outside school can find it hard to keep up.

Science Everywhere hopes to help teachers inspire kids to understand and love math and science in exciting, new ways. The skills young people develop doing math and science – critical thinking, problem solving, experimentation, and more – are incredibly valuable in all aspects of life. Since students spend 80 percent of their time outside of school, these critical subjects should be part of their daily lives. As part of the campaign, the foundations are matching donations from the public to fund outside-school math and science projects submitted by teachers to DonorsChoose.org. At the end of the challenge, five $5,000 prizes will be awarded to the teachers who come up with the best ideas.

Teachers have until April 30, 2017 to submit qualifying projects on DonorsChoose.org to be considered for one of five $5,000 prizes. The winning teachers will be announced on September 5, 2017.

Western Pa. schools’ $20K STEAM grant creations put on display

[A recent Tribune Review article featured creations at the 2016 AIU STEAM Showcase in Pittsburgh. Included was a canine robot named Marvin. The Carlynton student who created Marvin gained her initial training through Birdbrain Technologies Robot Petting Zoo Makeathon during the summer of 2015. Stephanie’s original creation was Fred, a sparkling red dinosaur. It’s wonderful to see how Marvin took on a more advanced look and feel using the Hummingbird Kit from Birdbrain. Tom Lauwers, the founder and Chief Scientist for Birdbrain Technologies,  will share some of the wonderful projects, like Fred (see below), created at Makeathons across the country at the Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference on November 8, 2016]

| Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016, 10:21 p.m.

Stephanie Bonifield stroked her dog Marvin under the chin, and he wagged his tail.

The orange pooch, made of duct tape and cardboard, also blinked his light bulb eyes and shook paws with people who stopped to greet him.

“He’s got a gimpy leg, but it works,” said Bonifield, 17, a senior at Carlynton Junior-Senior High School. Marvin is her second robot — she also made Fred, a dinosaur.

She and other Carlynton students showed off their work at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit’s annual STEAM Showcase this week. Twenty-eight school districts from Western Pennsylvania sent students to the event to show off what they did with their $20,000 STEAM grants from the AIU in the past year.

The showcase is just one such event that celebrates science, technology and engineering education in the Pittsburgh area. Remake Learning Education Friday, scheduled Oct. 14 for students and educators, is already sold out. Organizers said they expect more than 1,500 students and educators at the Buhl Community Park and Nova Place for a sneak peek —including live demonstrations and hands-on workshops and activities—of the annual Pittsburgh Maker Faire, scheduled Oct. 15 and 16.

“There seems to be a voracious appetite for kids and educators today for these authentic making and DIY experiences/STEM experiences,” said Bill Schlageter, director of marketing for the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, which is helping to organize the first-time event for students. “We’re very excited about it.”

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How Failure and Solving Real Problems Helps This School Thrive

[In this Mindshift article Project-based Learning (PBL)  in the form of Design Challenges is highlighted. I’ve seen the benefits of PBL in my work with several schools in the Pittsburgh region. In the past year I’ve worked on Design Challenges that are real-world issues for the Energy Innovation Center in Pittsburgh. Instead of just one business, the EIC can bring to the table over 100 partners who work and evaluate the student teams as a panel of Experts. Just like the students at the STEM School Chattanooga I’ve seen students who were not considered “Gifted” demonstrate their ability to solve problems, often thinking out of the box. We need to find more ways to have students collaborate and learn how to work with a team to design and solve problems for their communities.]

When Michael Stone was considering a job at the STEM School Chattanooga he was a little skeptical at first. He had been a successful traditional high school calculus teacher and he wasn’t totally sure he bought into the project-based learning model. Proponents always described it to him as though students should do all the work with no help from him — something he couldn’t imagine in calculus. But a tour of the school — led by a student — was all he needed to see what an education there was all about.

The student started off by explaining that the grading policy encouraged students to attempt an assignment, mess up, identify the failure points and try again. This same approach was applied to teaching, and students saw how Principal Tony Donen and teachers modeled this same approach in everything they did. The other big emphasis: assessing process skills alongside content knowledge. Stone knew that if a sophomore could so clearly articulate a vision of education so different from many traditional high schools, he needed to be there.

Stone took a job as the Fab Lab Director and Project-Based Learning Coordinator and became intimately aware of the process skills that formed the foundation for everything happening at the school: collaboration, critical thinking, and innovation. His job was to find partners in the Chattanooga business community who had real problems they needed solved and to coach students as they worked together designing solutions. His main goal directive: grow students into adaptable problem solvers.

Grading to promote from PEF STEM Innovation Hub on Vimeo.

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