STEM education provides many opportunities and challenges. How can our practice evolve to meet the needs of 21st-century learners?

STEM Middle School

Lynne Bensted

What would a successful stem magnet school, at middle school, look like?
Science,math linked to engineering?

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Outdoor Classrooms as STEM Learning Environments

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I would like to encourage STEM activists to consider installing outdoor classrooms in their schoolyards. STEM professionals understand that hands-on experiential learning not only increases student engagement but also results in higher knowledge retention rates for students. A typical outdoor classroom may include gardens, habitat areas, trees, renewable energy demonstrations, water flow systems, weather stations, compost bins, bird feeders and more. The capital costs for an outdoor classroom are modest compared to most bricks and mortar school construction projects and the OC can be designed and installed in phases so that the design process is itself an opportunity for STEM education. The outdoor classroom gives students a chance to interact on a regular basis with elements of the natural world, introduces the fundamentals of systems thinking through a mini-ecosystem, and offers an alternative to text based instruction for students with different learning styles. My own hypothesis is that experiential learning activities may be especially helpful for students who are English language learners and for kids where reading is not a high priority at home - in short, those who comprise the so-called Achievement Gap. I look forward to the day where outdoor classrooms are as ubiquitous as a school's auditorium, cafeteria, library or computer room. Of course, it is up to all of us to make this happen, both at the local level and as a matter of education reform and public policy - let's start thinking outside the walls and see what kinds of innovative steps we can take. This is not only a matter of science education but also of education science. We owe it to our kids and communities to give young people the best and broadest education possible.

For more information on green schoolyard development visit http://greenschoolyardnetwork.org.

Consultant for Knowledge Management in Education and Industry

Hey Lynn, Consider reviewing

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Hey Lynn,
Consider reviewing the NC MSEN (Mathmatics and Science Education Network) program run by Dr. Rita Fuller (919) 966-3202 and Dr. Verna Holoman. The success of students in the program is remarkable for those students that go on to college for STEM degrees and related careers. Particularly look at the ROBOTS program for assisting underserved students in NC become interested in STEM careers. In this case the students are in the program for several years.
http://www.unc.edu/depts/msen/

We are providing an online learning community platform for the students to connect with STEM professionals as e-mentors, with wiki space for creating STEM projects and portfolios, STEM subject experts deliver virtual live sessions to all students with student interaction, teachers use the platform to bring professional experts into the classroom virtually to comment on portions of related curriculum. Engaging the students is critical - the platform provides the students an opportunity to virtually communicate and collaborate with peers and make live virtual presentations. It also involves parents and industry, where industry can post internships and job shadowing opportunities. To find out more - www.ican-network.com.
Good Luck!
Jon 919-848-8972 jonb@knowledgenetworksolutions.com

6-7-8 Lead STEM Science Teacher @ SMS STEM Program, Salisbury, Maryland

Lynne, Salisbury Middle

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Lynne,

Salisbury Middle School in Salisbury Maryland initiated a STEM academy this year in grades 6-7-8. This program that I have had the pleasure of being the lead teacher of came out of a need for making science more relevant in our students lives and possibly their futures. What we have developed, and believe me it is still a work in progress and will be for quite sometime is a academy that revolves around the science curriculum. We currently have 30 students from each grade level enrolled in the program. Students are not all "magnet students", our school board would not allow us to create an "elitist" program. We have students that are at or above grade level in their reading and mathematics skills these scores are based on various standardized and quarterly tests). The population of our academy reflects the demographics of our school and the classes are basically split 50/50 boy-girl. We have taken a somewhat different approach to the STEM idea. Due to scheduling issues and board reservations we do not have a dedicated STEM math class. STEM students all have math at the same time but in their respected levels. Also in our program we have incorporated history classes (which have all the STEM students are in the same grade level classes) as well as our RELA (reading,English, language arts)classes. Tech ed and computers are also in the schedule. Since the science curriculum drives this program, we have worked on bridging the topic across all classes. For example in 7th grade we studied bacteria and viruses, in my classes we cultured bacteria samples from around the school and and compared and identified what was found. Students developed the experimental lab procedures by researching how microbiologists conduct their research and created their own procedures and followed through the experiment. In History class, students discussed the effects of plagues and pandemics on populations and civilizations from around the world and through time. In our RELA classes students read the novel Fever 1793 and related the story to what was being done in their other classes. In the Tech ed classes students looked at city maps and planned how to evacuate and quarantine the city based on the rate various factors. Students worked with models of cityscapes and GPS maps to come to their conclusions. In computer class students took raw data from various pandemics and charted, graphed and predicted outcomes and possible outcome based on various factors. This looks a lot like thematic learning, and for the most part it is, but the emphasis is on the science and the other STEM components that makes this unique. The other major part of our program is the career component. We make sure that whatever unit we are discovering, we include people who have careers in STEM fields that are relevant to the area of study. We believe that it is important for our students to get to talk to "real people" who have careers in STEM related fields. There is so much more I can tell you about this program which is receiving great praise from our students, parents and community. If you are interested in discussing this further, you can reach me at Salisbury Middle school 410-677-5149. Hope this helped?

Chad

Magnet Resource Teacher

STEM Middle Academy

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Hi,
I just joined this group this evening and am thrilled to see so many people working hard to do just what we are in Springfield, MA. We opened our STEM Middle Academy in Sept. '09 with 100 6th graders. This past fall we added an additional 100 students. Next fall we will reach capacity with 300 6th-8th graders. We are doing as many integrated STEM units as possible. That means students are doing a STEM unit across the curriculum. We have mapped our curriculum to see where we have cross pollination opportunities. Right now we are about to have our Celebration of Learning for a "Voyage to Mars" integrated unit with our 6th graders and their families. 7th graders will host a Forensics Dinner Theater celebration for their families through a mystery play and demonstration of the forensics skills they've developed.
We have built an inaugural garden and had our ribbon cutting event a few weeks ago. I'd love to talk more about schools integrating STEM across the curriculum. Check out our website at http://www.sps.springfield.ma.us/stem

Asst Professor of Science Education @ UW-Oshkosh

Waukesha (WI) school district

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Waukesha (WI) school district has K-5 and 6-8 STEM charter schools. You can find more information here:

http://waukeshastemacademy.com/Home.aspx

Science/Admin

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What a great site! I've been exploring how to bring a more consistent STEM focus to middle schools in our district and its encouraging to hear about all the efforts out there. I've already culled a beginning list of critical steps for successful STEM classrooms here. I look forward to sharing more -

Teacher, curriculum and program developer, author, PBL facilitator, techie

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It would have computer science at every grade. Using inclusive practices and geared toward innovation.

What a great idea! We have

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What a great idea! We have an unused courtyard at our school that we've been trying to think what to do with--thanks for the tip!

Marketing Manager at Exploratorium

National STEM Video Game Challenge

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President Obama announced the launch of two video game design competitions, one aimed at middle schoolers and the other for pros. Here's more on the challenge for middle school students:

http://www.next-gen.biz/news/president-obama-announces-educational-game-...

Chad, The unit you described

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Chad,
The unit you described sounds similar to SEPUP's (Science Education for Public Understanding Program) Cell Biology and Disease unit from Issues and Life Science. In that unit kids "map death" with John Snow and study microorganisms as they relate to disease transmission. They finish the unit by figuring out the cause of "Maracondo Fever" that is wiping out a small village in the rainforest.

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