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Friday, August 29, 2014

Ridgewood Girls Soccer Team does #ALSIceBucketChallenge in memory of coach Jack Elwood

Written by Jeremy Schneider

High school athletes throughout New Jersey are taking the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. But the cause has a special meaning for Ridgewood.

The Ridgewood High School girls soccer team took the challenge recently in memory of their former coach, Jack Elwood. Elwood, who coached the team for 15 years, died of ALS in 2010. He donated his body to science and took part in a longitudinal study at Columbia University to help find a curse for the disease.

The team challenged the rest of the Big North girls soccer teams to take the challenge, as well as the Ridgewood boys soccer team.

"Jack was one of the most courageous and inspirational people I have ever known. Jack chose to life his life fully," Ridgewood coach Jeff Yearing said in the video. "Today we're trying to live up to Jack's standard and hopefully this helps. ...Jack, we remember you. We do this for you, my friend."

Click here to read from this article's source.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Berkeley Heights Athlete Participates in #GirlSports Challenge - vote by 9/14

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Justina Benvenuto, from Berkeley Heights, accepted the GirlSports Challenge and asks for your vote!

Girls Scouts promotes health, fitness and leadership and through a partnership with Nestle they created the GirlSports Challenge to see the girls in action. The GirlSports Challenge is showcasing girls who know the importance of staying healthy through physical activity.

GirlSports asked girls, ages 13 and older, to upload a picture of themselves onto the Girl Scouts Facebook page showing the participant actively playing a sport. "After all, the benefits of exercising and playing sports are endless," as said on the GirlSports website.

Justina, a seventh grade student at St. Vincent De Paul School in Stirling, is an active Girl Scout Cadette earning her Silver Award. She has been pitching since she was eight years old and currently plays for the Panthers Travel Team out of Bridgewater.

Click here to visit the Girl Scouts GirlSports Facebook page and vote for Justina. You can vote multiple times until the deadline of Sept. 14, 2014.

Click here to read from this article's source.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Coding in N.J. classrooms: 'Language' of computer science grows as life-skill

Written by Susan Bloom

Microsoft founder Bill Gates got his first exposure at age 13. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg started when he was about 12. Twitter creator Jack Dorsey was 8 and Dropbox founder Drew Houston was just 5.

These gurus of tech were only kids when they began learning how to program a computer. None started by trying to solve complex algorithms, rather they played games or designed simple objects. In the process, they learned code.

"Code is how any technology works — from computers to phones, coffee pots, cars and electronics. Anything driven by a computer mechanism requires code," says Andrea Ballina, a technology teacher at Bradley Beach Elementary School.

And as with Spanish, French, German or Italian, a growing number of K-through-12 districts in New Jersey are including the "language" of technology in their curriculum. It's estimated that one in every 10 schools now offers classes in coding for students at all grade levels.

"Just like we use the principles of math or the words in world languages as building blocks for those studies, code is a form of communication," says Marie Blistan, vice president of the New Jersey Education Association.

"Coding is its own language, not like anything else. It's sort of like learning music and then applying it," says Ballina, who introduced coding to her fifth-grade class for the first time during the 2013-14 academic year.

"There are so many great games and exercises out there today that make learning code fun for kids, and they can see the results of their work right on the screen," she says. "I feel like this is the real meaning of and most effective way to teach logic — not in an abstract way, but rather making it happen right then."

Ballina's 25 fifth-graders attended her technology class once every six days for a 45-minute coding session, during which they learned how to create games and animation with user-friendly software programs such as Scratch and Tynker. "We designed a maze as a whole class," says Thomas Sexsmith, 11, who was particularly adept at computer science basics and often helped other classmates navigate coding assignments.

"It's a lot of trial and error, and you have to pay attention to what you're doing, but once you figure it out, it feels good. I liked the freedom in the class and how we could do projects our own way, and I learned not to give up on these things," he says, adding that he hopes to be an engineer when he gets older.

"I think all kids in school should take coding because it teaches you how to use computers and you can use that in the future," says 10-year-old Lleyke Dunnican, another of Ballina's students, who says she'd like to become a scientist. "If you want to be a technology person when you grow up, then you'll know the techniques."

Ballina says more than half of the students in her class already had a Scratch account and were working on projects at home before they started learning them in school.

"This subject really engages kids at every grade level and they gain confidence from experiencing simple success and helping each other," she says.

The movement to teach code in the classroom began building speed about a year ago, when twin brothers Ali and Hadi Partovi launched Investors and early advisers to numerous startups — including Facebook, Dropbox and Zappos — the brothers encouraged U.S. teachers to introduce students to a special "Hour of Code" on their website.

The event, held last December during Computer Science Education Week, helped to jump-start the push to expand computer science learning among young people. Less than a year later, nearly 40 million kids have tapped into the science of code.

"Five years ago, we had 53 students in our computer science classes and now we have 180," says Daryl Detrick, a computer science instructor at Warren Hills Regional High School in Washington, which offers five levels of computer science/coding classes and has one of the larger CS programs in the state.

"Additionally, up until recently, only 15 percent of the students in our CS classes were female, but now that's doubled to 30 percent," says Detrick, who is president of the Computer Science Teachers Association of Central New Jersey.

" was the key that opened the doors and got the ball rolling, and it's since expanded into a movement that really engages kids and gets them interested in and excited about computer science," he says.

Educators see coding becoming more necessary in today's classroom to prepare students for the careers of tomorrow.

"Jobs are different now than when we were growing up," says Pam Lockwood, a technology teacher at Belmar Elementary School. "We used to think about being a doctor or a teacher, but now kids say, ‘I can work for Google and make different apps.' So it's important for us to expose kids to whatever's trending out in the world."

According to, the number of computing jobs is rising three times faster than the number of computer science graduates, and experts predict there will be 1 million unfulfilled computer science jobs in America by 2020.

"Job opportunities in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math are tremendous, and we'd be restricting kids from taking part in that trend if we didn't expose them to those skills now. That's where the opportunities are," Detrick says.

Ballina agrees. "The future jobs are in technology and coding, but there are still benefits to having those skills beyond just those specific fields," she says. "By understanding the basics of computer science, kids can grasp the behind-the-scenes aspects of how things work and how to fix them, as well as the logic of solving problems regardless of the field they pursue."

"Computational thinking is a life-skill and supports learning across the curriculum," says Richard Vespucci, a spokesman for the state Department of Education. "It builds students' abilities to analyze a problem and develop solutions."

Though more and more jobs will rely on a mastery of computer science and coding techniques, Detrick says, in a majority of states, computer science doesn't count toward high school math or science requirements necessary for graduation.

Thanks, in part, to the momentum created by, he says, the state Assembly has passed a bill that would allow an Advanced Placement course in computer science to satisfy some mathematics or science credits required for high school graduation. The bill is under consideration by the Senate and, if approved by the Senate and signed into law by the governor, would take effect this month for ninth-grade students.

"Computer science has only counted as a general elective, not as an academic class like other math and science classes. It's great to see the national coding initiative expand into a movement to help make CS count," Detrick says.

"We want students to be innovative creators of technology, not just passive users," he adds. "Some creation might be in the form of video games, but it might also be in the form of medical devices and procedures that can save lives, or car designs that can revolutionize transportation.

"We want kids to think and to use these coding and computer science tools proactively," he says. "It's about exploring the world of computational thinking and solving tomorrow's problems with today's technology."

Click here to read from this article's source.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Got STEM? Let us Know How You're Supporting STEM in Afterschool!

NJSACC: The Statewide Network for New Jersey's Afterschool Communities promotes and supports the development, continuity and expansion of quality programs for children and youth during out-of-school time.

NJSACC knows that a lot of great things are being achieved through STEM education in afterschool programs, but we need to know more. Help us make a difference by pinpointing STEM activity taking place in your programs and let's find out what is being accomplished!

With that in mind, please take a moment and fill out our quick survey to express your interests in incorporating STEM into your programs or how you are currently implementing STEM.

We encourage as many programs to respond as possible, whether or not you have strong involvement with STEM.

Thank you, in advance, for your help.

Click here to access the survey and begin!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Liberty Science Center receives $35,000 grant to fund program for underprivileged children

Written by Nicolas Fernandes

Liberty Science Center has been granted $35,000 from the Charles Lafitte Foundation that will go towards their free, recurring event for less fortunate children during the school year.

LCS has been holding Community Evenings since 1998. The three-and-a-half-hour sessions provide IMAX films, 3D shows, family programming, live demonstrations and hands-on activities for students in the 31 low-income school districts statewide, which include Jersey City, Harrison, West New York, Hoboken, and Union City.

CLF supports organizations working in education, children's advocacy, medical, and arts.

LCS submits request forms to about 100 foundations each year to fund the $100,000 program. Some years they receive the entire amount and other years they get a smaller amount. If they are not granted the full amount, the science center, a non-profit organization, pays for the remaining costs.

"Science and technology education is increasingly important for our students' futures – that's why we are so excited and proud to support the Liberty Science Center, CLF President Jennifer Vertetis said.

This is the second time CLF has awarded the center with a grant for the program. This is the first grant they have received for the upcoming school year and LCS Director of Grants Jessica Ortiz expects one or two more by February.

"Charles Lafitte Foundation's support of Liberty Science Center's community evenings provides opportunities for learners of all ages to gather at the Center and experience the range of exhibitions and special programs presented here," said Daniel Menelly, LCS vice president of STEM education.

Click here to read from this article's source.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Man With Dwarfism Wears Hidden Camera to Show a Day From His Point of View

Written by Zain Meghji

New York is a big city, and the sheer size of it can be overwhelming for anyone. Now imagine what it feels like if you are a little person. Jonathan Novick, 22, has achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism.

Sharing a definition of dwarfism, Novick says it is "the abnormal underdevelopment of the body characterized predominantly by extreme shortness of stature." He adds, "The term is dwarf or little person, one or the other is totally fine — just not midget ... not only is that incorrect, but it's incredibly offensive."

Novick came to New York City about a year ago. He made a short film about his experience and posted it to YouTube on Aug. 7. In less than a week, it's racked up more than 69,000 views.

He wanted to share this video so that instead of telling people about his condition and his life, he could start showing them.

In May 2013, he participated in a different film that also tells his story.

In the more recent project, he uses footage from a hidden camera disguised as a button on his shirt to show us a day in his life: his perspective dealing with mistaken identity and people snapping photos of him on the sly.

This is the question he poses to the viewer: "The next time you see someone who is different than you, think about what their day might be like, think about all of the events of their life leading up to that point … and think about what part of their day do you want to be."

What did you learn from Don't Look Down on Me?

Click here to read from this article's source.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Science academies a hot trend for fall in North Jersey

Written by Hannan Adely

With schools set to open in about three weeks, the hottest trend in education is the launching of special academies for science, technology, engineering and math, aimed at training future high-tech workers and capturing the fascination of young people born to a digital age.

The Tenafly School District will open its STEM academy, bringing together the four fields of study, in September, and there already are established ones in the Cresskill, Bergenfield and Paterson public schools, as well as high-tech learning centers in private schools.

While specialized academies have been promoted as a means to raising the achievement of American students, meeting workplace demands, and helping young people compete with their counterparts in other nations in a fast-evolving high-tech economy, some critics say such programs are vastly uneven in quality and resources and offer advice on how the best well-established academies have succeeded.

Educators say the small schools or school programs are intended to improve students’ knowledge and global competitiveness and encourage career choices in the STEM fields. Demand is also coming from students who have a growing interest in computers and technology, from families that believe the coursework offers a path to success, and from business leaders who say such skills will keep America competitive in a changing world economy.

But critics say the academies alone don't go far enough unless they have the right resources and teaching talent. Some vary in quality or lack proper facilities, including well-equipped science labs.

“I have visited the Bergen Academies and other high schools in the state, and there are significant differences in terms of the facilities available and the overall environment the students have to work in,” said Robert S. Prezant, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics at Montclair State University.

While some students have more advantages, Prezant said success also relies on factors life home life and community support.

“I think it is always going to reflect on quality of programs and the questions that the children are being asked at home,” he said.

School and business leaders say the results of the academies are hard to measure because they don’t have common criteria or frameworks. But many believe it is a promising effort to raise student interest in those fields.

“The lack of a STEM-literate population is a problem,” said Dana Egreczky, senior vice president of workforce development for the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce. “That continues with the fact that we cannot find the STEM workers who follow through to college and become the engineers, scientists and mathematicians we need.”

College graduates who major in science, technology, engineering and math have higher employment rates and make more money in their careers, research shows. One survey of the class of 2008, by the National Center for Education Statistics, found that graduates in those fields earned $15,500 a year more than their peers and that their unemployment rate in 2012 was 5 percent, compared with 7.1percent for non-STEM majors.

Egreczky highlights those benefits when she visits schools around the state to get students to think about STEM careers.

“That little bit of fact they get about job availability and salary — that gets students thinking carefully about these fields,” she said. “They take more courses and are more interested in these fields and what it can do for them.”

State and school officials have taken notice of workforce trends and longstanding concerns that American students trail other countries in math and science.

Academies have been opening for students who show interest and aptitude in science, technology, engineering and math. Students in those academies are expected to take advanced placement or honors classes, or both, in math and science and get hands-on experience in the fields.

When Tenafly’s academy opens in September, students will take four STEM electives in addition to regular requirements.

At Cresskill’s academy, opened in 2013, students also go on field trips, hear from guest speakers, do a research project as seniors, and get school credit for internships, workshops and robotics club.

In Bergenfield, which has had its academy for at least six years, freshmen must attend at least five engineering and technology seminars. Students also work with a mentor on a research project over four years and must compete in at least one state or national science competition.

The Paterson School District, which opened its academy four years ago, has a robotics club for students with a grade-point average of 3.5 or higher.

Several private and charter schools focused on STEM have also opened in recent years. And in June, the private Dwight-Englewood School began construction on a $20 million education building for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which is expected to be completed in fall 2015.

The patchwork of academy programs is natural because of how the American school system is designed, said Meghan Snow, director of the Office of STEM for the New Jersey Department of Education.

“While we set the standards for math and science and other areas, how the districts decide to deliver those standards is locally decided,” she said. She added that the amount of money for such programs is also determined at the local level.

But STEM programs face the same problem that all schools have had: unequal resources. Students in poorer schools may have fewer advanced placement classes or lack science labs and properly trained teachers, said Tracy Gray, managing director at the American Institutes for Research.

Local educators say they are aware of the limitations but are taking steps to bolster their programs.

In Paterson, Superintendent Donnie Evans said that he was retraining teachers, partnering with area universities and using financial incentives to fill the demand for STEM teachers.

There are statewide initiatives that also help, including a fellowship program that pays $30,000 stipends to science students in exchange for commitments to work in special-needs schools for three years.

The authors of a 2011 report by the National Research Council say that it’s hard to measure success because programs are so different and lack shared criteria. Also, some have selective entry based on grades and recommendations, while others are all-inclusive.

But the report outlines indicators of successful schools, including having clear standards and curriculum; highly trained, qualified teachers; adequate instruction time; and equal access to resources.

“There are pockets of excellence everywhere, but it’s hard to tell in the aggregate whether we are moving the needle” toward improving U.S. performance, said Natalie Nielsen, senior program officer with the board on science education at the National Research Council.

Students are embracing the new programs and like the challenges, say educators, who point out that the STEMs are among their most popular academies.

Asraful Islam, a student at Paterson’s STEM academy, said he liked the “fun educational environment,” which includes challenging courses, after-school activities like the green club and robotics, and academic competitions that allow him to meet new people.

“STEM is an awesome academy,” he said. “It’s helping me find the career and college of my choosing.”

With the demands of these academies and new standards, STEM students may get less learning time in areas like the humanities and social studies.

But many districts also offer academies in non-science areas as part of an overall trend toward small schools and more personalized education.

“For some people it might be a problem that students are spending less time reading literature, but others may feel that for students, especially for those who have a high affinity for STEM, it’s a good thing,” Gray said.

School and state officials are also expanding and starting after-school and summer programs and scholarships and competitions to encourage students in those interests.

New Jersey and dozens of more states have also adopted new academic standards that put more focus on science and math skills and that were designed with input from businesses.

The iD Tech Camp, a national summer program, has grown about 20 percent each year since it was founded 16 years ago, said Karen Thurm Safran, vice president for marketing. The camp, which served 1,700 students in New Jersey and has a waiting list, offers classes in Web and app design, 3-D animation, robotics, filmmaking and video-game design.

“The premise is to show students how they can turn something that’s a passion or interest into so much more, a college degree or a future job,” Thurm Safran said.

Jeff Scheininger, who owns a company in Linden that makes industrial hoses, said the need for better STEM education was evident in business. He recalled that most applicants for a recent job at his factory couldn’t pass a basic math test.

“I have watched over two or three decades as my mostly New Jersey-educated workforce had morphed into a mostly foreign-educated workforce,” said Scheininger, the immediate past chairman of the Chamber of Commerce.

He said he believes new academic standards, more teacher training and a focus on math and science from a young age can help turn around American education.

“You can stay ahead of the curve all the way through and produce a generation of numerative Americans — people that understand how many fifths fit into five-sixteenths and can envision it and make sense of it,” he said.

Click here to read from this article's source.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Catarcio Selected For Governor’s STEM Program #christie #newjersey

Written by Christina Sheldon

COURT HOUSE – Kristian Catarcio, a senior at Cape May County Technical High School, and resident of Court House, was recently selected for the inaugural class of the Governor's STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Scholars Program.

Catarcio is enrolled in the Allied Medical program at the school. He has the opportunity to earn college credits from Rutgers University and the University Of Medicine and Dentistry.

Catarcio is treasurer of the school’s Key Club, and he is a member of the varsity swim team. He has been an employee at Steve’s CafĂ© 47 on Delsea Drive since 2009.

Catarcio is also a member of the National Honor Society and Student Council. In addition, he is a student at Musikhaus Studios in Court House, where he studies music theory and vocal performance. In the future, he would like to attend college and major in either microbiology or molecular biology, and eventually attend medical school.

In its inaugural year, the Governor’s STEM Scholars Program is a free, statewide STEM education initiative for New Jersey students in grades 10 through the PhD level.

A public-private partnership among the Research & Development Council of New Jersey, Governor’s Office, New Jersey Department of Education, and Secretary of Higher Education, this program brings together a diverse and representative group of 50 high school and postsecondary student leaders who are interested in pursuing a STEM-related major and career in New Jersey’s vast STEM economy.

The program selects student leaders who are interested in STEM so that they can be exposed to everything New Jersey has to offer in STEM across all sectors – academia, industry, and government. Through a series of four conferences during the school year, as well as trips to STEM organizations across the state, the Governor’s STEM Scholars provide students with opportunities to closely interact with New Jersey STEM professionals, research organizations, and state policymakers to educate themselves about and experience the state’s STEM economy. The program offers scholars mentoring opportunities and enables them to make personal and professional connections that can last throughout their academic and professional careers.
The Governor’s STEM Scholars’ goal is to educate students about STEM opportunities within the state, as well as to encourage New Jersey’s economic development by further developing New Jersey’s STEM talent pipeline.”

Click here to read from this article's source.

Monday, August 11, 2014

LEGO Launches Collection of Female Scientist Figurines

Written by Mattie Kahn

When a 7-year-old girl wrote a stern letter to Lego earlier this year to express her discontent with the Danish toy company's offering of female figurines, she set in motion an effort to do something about it.

"I want you to make more Lego girl people and let them go on adventures...ok!?!" Charlotte Benjamin wrote in her letter.

At the time, Lego officials assured Benjamin that they were in fact considering a brand new female set. Now, Lego has made good on its promise.

The company debuted a the Research Institute play set on its website today. Created by geophysicist Ellen Kooijman on Lego Ideas, the crowd-sourced design platform, the collection features three female scientists: an astronomer, a paleontologist and a chemist.

In a blog post, Kooijman wrote: "As a female scientist I had noticed two things about the available Lego sets: a skewed male/female minifigure ratio and a rather stereotypical representation of the available female figures."

She added that she hoped her designs would "make our Lego city communities more diverse."

The collection launched today and is already sold out. According to the site, it will be available for purchase again later this month.

Click here to read from this article's source.

Friday, August 8, 2014

ICYMI: Let us Know How You're Supporting STEM in Afterschool!

NJSACC: The Statewide Network for New Jersey's Afterschool Communities promotes and supports the development, continuity and expansion of quality programs for children and youth during out-of-school time.

NJSACC knows that a lot of great things are being achieved through STEM education in afterschool programs, but we need to know more. Help us make a difference by pinpointing STEM activity taking place in your programs and let's find out what is being accomplished!

With that in mind, please take a moment and fill out our quick survey to express your interests in incorporating STEM into your programs or how you are currently implementing STEM.

We encourage as many programs to respond as possible, whether or not you have strong involvement with STEM.

Thank you, in advance, for your help.

Click here to access the survey and begin!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Next Generation Science Standards Adopted by New Jersey's Department of Education

Through a collaborative, state-led process, new K–12 science standards have been developed that are rich in content and practice and arranged in a coherent manner across disciplines. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is based on the Framework for K–12 Science Education developed by the National Research Council.

Recently, the NGSS were adopted by the State Board of Education of New Jersey on July 9, 2014. The implementation timeline is as follows:

  • Grades 6-12 to implement by the start of the 2016-2017 school year.
  • Grades K-5 to implement by the start of the 2017-2018 school year.

Resources, including professional development, will be available beginning in September 2014. As it becomes available, information and updates will be posted on the science webpage here and through the science list serve.

The consensus among states that have adopted the NGSS is that it is essential for teachers of science to become experts on the Frameworks for K-12 Science Education (NRC, 2012) before making any changes to the local curriculum. The department has established a timeline that provides sufficient time to make the transition, but the work needs to be sustained, intensive, and begin during the fall of 2014.

The NJDOE's professional development plan is to focus on district level administrators during the fall 2014. Building level administrators will be the target of professional development offerings in the spring of 2015. Professional development for teachers of science will begin in late spring 2015 and focus on the model science curriculum and ancillary unit assessments.

Click here to learn more about NGSS.