Ridgefield middle school adapts classroom for STEM

Imagine a Lego robot plodding along a table. It reaches a computer keyboard and, sensing the obstruction, adjusts its speed to move up and over toward a computer monitor. The robot taps the glowing screen, on which a computer model of a school playground is displayed, but cannot get in.


Though separated, the model and robot have something in common. They both will reside in the new STEM classroom at View Ridge Middle School in Ridgefield and they both are the product of design and mathematics.


In an effort to bridge the gaps between STEM subjects -- science, technology, engineering and math -- View Ridge remodeled over the summer its industrial arts classroom and adjacent rooms to prepare for its adoption of the Gateway to Technology program this school year. Pioneered by the national education nonprofit Project Lead the Way, the program stresses hands-on activities to engage students in STEM subjects.


The remodel and the implementation of Gateway to Technology have been a year in the making and represent the first time the Ridgefield School District will use state Career and Technical Education funding in a middle school.


"We want our kids to be world competitive," says Ridgefield assistant superintendent Patricia Bowles. "If we don't build this natural curiosity and take these skills they have, then we're doing these kids a disservice ... but we need to meet them on their own terms."


The new View Ridge classroom houses computer labs and a central working area in which to test Lego Mindstorms robots and other projects.


View Ridge mathematics teacher Sheila Davis and applied technology teacher Tylor Hankins will lead the classes. They both completed training at Purdue University this summer for Project Lead the Way certification and will teach three of View Ridge's six planned Gateway to Technology classes this academic year, with the rest to follow.


Hankins and Davis have scientific backgrounds: Hankins as a chemistry researcher at the University of Washington and Davis as a fish biologist with numerous government agencies. They both underwent training at the Clark County Skills Center and, prior to becoming teachers, completed more than 6,000 hours of STEM-related employment to qualify for state funding and certification under the Career and Technical Education program.


They both came to teach in middle school because of the kids. Davis has been at View Ridge for three years, Hankins for one year.


"I really connect with middle-school students ... they haven't formed negative opinions toward what they're learning," says Davis.


"It's a great age to introduce them to STEM fields, where you can have fun with it and leave a great impression," says Hankins.


They will teach Design and Modeling together this fall and then split up to teach Automation and Robotics and Energy and Environment in the winter and spring.


For Design and Modeling, the students will use professional drafting software, provided at a discount by software publisher Autodesk, to learn how the design process works from start to finish.


"It's the scientific method of engineers," says Hankins.


"If we just pass out robotic parts and say, 'Build a robot,' they have nothing to go on," says Davis.


The course's capstone project will be to design a school playground.


source: http://www.oregonlive.com/clark-county/index.ssf/2012/09/ridgefield_middle_school_adapt.html



STEM class targets girls

Students in the newest section of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math at Patton Middle School have one overriding reason for taking the class: They like to make things.

“I like to do things with my hands,” said Katelyn Bliven, one of 26 seventh- and eighth-graders in the girls-only class. “That’s more fun, more interesting than just working on paper.”

Sara Torres, Katelyn’s partner in the year’s first project, also picked the class as an elective. “I wanted to try something different, and this seemed pretty fun,” she said.

Teacher Anna Gradek said she wants students to enjoy the course, in addition to learning more about the subject matter. And by making it single gender, she hopes girls will feel free to explore and try more projects without feeling like boys are dominating the class.

“I told them this class is ‘strong enough for a man, but made for a woman,’” joked Gradek, a McMinnville High School graduate in her ninth year at Patton.

The girls-only course is one of numerous STEM classes now offered at both Patton and Duniway middle schools. Students use computers, as well as hand tools, to explore robotics, engineering, aerospace and other concepts related to sciences and math.

Patton’s program is housed in the former wood shop. Duniway’s in a converted modular classroom building.

Middle school STEM started four years ago with a grant-funded pilot at Patton. Dave Larson taught the initial sessions, then expanded it to both schools.

The program grew each year with additional courses and more staff, backed by the schools’ regular science teachers. It’s an integral part of the science and math curriculum in the McMinnville School District, said Tony Vicknair, director of secondary programs.

Elementary students have numerous science experiences, such as trips to the McMinnville water treatment plant and a fifth-grade skateboard physics lessons.

They find more science and math to explore, including STEM, when they reach middle school. And middle school girls also can sign up for summer STEM sessions at the Evergreen Space Museum.

High schoolers can choose from a variety of math and science courses; career pathways related to engineering, forestry or other science-based fields; and the Engineering and Aerospace Science Academy housed at the space museum. And soon the high school will be added more courses that integrated math and science.

“We want our kids to excel in math and science, and they are,” Vicknair said. “Our math scores are really solid.

“And for we want to make available high-yielding, financially viable jobs for our kids. There are so many careers they can choose from if they have a math and science background.”

McMinnville’s STEM program has drawn a lot of attention from other school districts, Vicknair said. They frequently send visitors to Patton and Duniway to see how it’s working.

For students in Gradek’s introductory STEM class for girls, it’s all about the hands-on projects.

Their first project involved building an air-powered car from simple materials.

Gradek showed them how to form axles from paper clips and straws, roll construction paper into a tube for the body and cut board for tires. The final step will be creating a fan for the back, to catch the air and propel the car forward.

Students said they found one of the initial steps, straightening paper clips using needle-nose pliers, to be challenging. But bit by bit, they were able to tease the curves from the stiff wire.

“I like working on things,” Charlene Tucker said.

Across the table, Chyann Scroggins and Ally Wicks agreed. “I like making stuff,” Chyann said, “and I like being with people I know.”


source: http://www.newsregister.com/article?articleTitle=stem-class-targets-girls--1347478380--4615--home-news 


Forest Heights eighth-grader plans free Lego robotics camp for STEM education

When 13-year-old Michael Ioffe first heard about President Obama's challenge to provide more education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), he knew just how he could contribute to that goal.


Ioffe says that Lego robotics is great for generating interest in all the STEM subjects, but he wasn't aware of a thorough curriculum that covered all aspects of teaching it. So he set about creating his own.


Taking on such a large project is not unusual for the Forest Heights eighth-grader who attends ACCESS Academy in the Portland school district.


Last year, he collected stories from his classmates and self-published a book to sell, donating about $250 in profits to the Oregon Food Bank. He called his project Writing Away Hunger, and he plans to do it again this year.


He also knows a lot about robotics. He's been on a Lego robotics team since he was 6 years old, spending two to three hours per week working on projects. Last year, the team's nine local students took second place in design at the North American First Lego League Open held at Legoland in California.


"Robotics helps prepare you for a job in the future," said Ioffe. "You learn programming, and because you are focused on teamwork, it teaches you how to work with people."


Ioffe, with help from his teammates, dad and coach, has already developed a curriculum and tested it on younger children at a camp in July.


"We did a test run to see how we could improve the curriculum, what to add and how we could focus on kids 9 to 14," he said. He wanted to debut his camp in August, but not enough students signed up for the week it was offered.


That didn't discourage Ioffe, who figures the timing was difficult because of summer vacation. With school starting again, he's focused on communicating with schools and offering the camp as an option during winter or spring break.


The camp will be free to those who sign up, Ioffe said, and he's setting the ratio at three students for every teacher. "The smaller size group you have, the easier it is to learn," he said.


Members of his team are set to teach those who attend. Ideally, Ioffe said, the camp will be a "prep so that the kids who attend can create their own team when they're done."


Meena Kandaswamy, whose daughter, Akhila, is part of the team, said Ioffe was passionate about this project. "He's only in eighth grade, but he took the initiative to create this forum for kids who haven't been exposed to robotics before," she said.


Ioffe sees that his project can have a reach far beyond the students who may attend his camp. He is developing a website that will "open source the curriculum as a resource for teachers to use when teaching STEM classes to their students."


The website offers Ioffe the opportunity to reach anyone anywhere who has a connection to the Internet, helping him spread the idea of robotics as a great way to learn math while having a lot of fun.


source: http://www.oregonlive.com/north-of-26/index.ssf/2012/09/forest_heights_eighth-grader_p.html



Chevron's Fuel Your School Program Expands to Support Nine Communities Across the U.S.

Chevron U.S.A. Inc. announced the expansion of its Fuel Your School program to nine communities this fall from two communities in 2011. Fuel Your School will provide useful funding for eligible classroom projects developed by public school teachers and posted to DonorsChoose.org in the following communities:

-- Alameda and Contra Costa counties, California

-- Orange County, California

-- Kern County, California

-- Sacramento County, California

-- St. Tammany, Orleans and Plaquemines parishes, Louisiana

-- Jackson County, Mississippi

-- Multnomah County, Oregon

-- Harris County, Texas

-- Salt Lake and Davis counties, Utah

Chevron will donate $1 for every eight gallon or larger fill up from Oct. 1 to Oct. 31 at participating Chevron and Texaco stations in those communities, up to a total contribution of nearly $5 million.

"Educating today's students remains critical to our country's future, but America's schools face significant challenges and have fallen behind in science, technology, engineering and math," said Dale Walsh, president of Chevron Americas Products. "Fuel Your School provides teachers with essential tools and resources that help students learn, explore and get excited about STEM education to help prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow."

The program is an innovative collaboration with DonorsChoose.org, an online charity to help students in need. All year, public school teachers across the U.S. post classroom project requests on DonorsChoose.org, ranging from pencils to microscope slides and even live tarantulas for use with biology lessons.

"Teachers spend more than $350 of their own money every year on materials for their students," said Charles Best, CEO of DonorsChoose.org. "Our site enables public school teachers to post projects for funding from their community and companies like Chevron who want to improve students' education."

The lack of adequate school funding across the nation has become so dire that some teachers do not have basic supplies to help students complete their classroom assignments. During the last school year, public school teachers shared more than 100,000 requests on the DonorsChoose.org website. One of those requests came from Ms. Lim-Breitbart, who teaches high school physics at Aspire California College Preparatory Academy in Berkeley, Calif., but lacked the resources to provide students with hands-on scientific activities. With the help of the Fuel Your School program, she and her students received digital thermometers and hot plates to use during physics lessons.

"[The] donation helped change our classroom from 'getting by' to 'doing real science' this year," said Lim-Breitbart. Students now believe that "science is a real option for them in the future."

Chevron partners with local communities, governments and non-profit organizations to increase learning opportunities for students and support the social and economic vitality of communities where the company has significant business operations. Chevron has contributed nearly $100 million for education in the U.S. over the past three years.

Since its inception in 2010, Fuel Your School has funded more than 3,000 classroom projects at nearly 600 schools, and the program has grown each year to support students in additional communities. Public school teachers and other educators are invited to post eligible projects starting on September 1 to www.DonorsChoose.org, for possible funding as part of the Fuel Your School program.

Consumers can track the classroom projects in need of funding and see how much money is being earned for public schools in each city by visiting www.FuelYourSchool.com. Donations earned through Fuel Your School will be used to fund eligible classroom projects from Oct. 2 through Nov. 30, 2012, or until funds generated by this program have been exhausted by eligible projects. Consumers and Chevron employees may also independently fund classroom projects on the DonorsChoose.org website by making separate, individual donations.

source: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/chevrons-fuel-your-school-program-expands-to-support-nine-communities-across-the-us-2012-09-05?siteid=nbkh 



NASA Selects Oregon Teacher to be "Agent of Change" for STEM Education

GREENBELT, Md.Cynthia Townsend, a teacher at Clara Brownell Middle School, Umatilla, Oregon, has been awarded an Endeavor Fellowship with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA's Endeavor Science Teaching Certificate Project provides live, online training for educators working to earn a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) certificate from Teachers College, Columbia University, N.Y.

"This year marks the acceptance of 51 new Endeavor fellows in Cohort 4," said Katherine Bender, Education Specialist and lead for the project at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md."The project is funded through NASA's Office of Education.  Implementation is through Glen Schusterand U.S. Satellite Laboratory, Rye, N.Y."

Teachers engage with education experts, NASA scientists, and with each other to carry back to the classroom a greater understanding of NASA discoveries, to impact student learning in real-world contexts, to inspire a next generation of explorers, scientists, engineers and astronauts.

"Endeavor offers educators research-based ways to bring relevant NASA and STEM discipline content to a school's curriculum.  The project helps educators to do this effectively," said Shelley Canright, Manager of Elementary, Secondary and e-Education at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The 2012 cohort of educators from around the U.S. represents many of our nation's future leaders in science, mathematics and technology education."

The highly-competitive NASA Fellowship is a model for effectual improvements in teacher practice.  Endeavor is collaborating with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, promoting effective strategies for teaching and learning.

The project was designed and is administered by the U.S. Satellite Laboratory Inc., of Rye, N.Y. Funding for the program is provided through the NASA Endeavor Teacher Fellowship Trust Fund, in tribute to the dedicated crew of the space shuttle Challenger.

For additional information about the Endeavor Science Teaching Certificate Project, visit:http://www.us-satellite.net/endeavor/

For information about NASA education programs, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/education


source: http://www.bizjournals.com/prnewswire/press_releases/2012/02/17/DC55804