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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

New National Afterschool Matters Fellowship from NIOST

NEW! National Afterschool Matters Fellowship

Offered by the National Institute on Out-of-School Time and the National Writing Project. 

The National Afterschool Matters (NASM) Fellowship is for mid-career OST, education, or youth development professionals who demonstrate a commitment to the field. NASM fellows are selected by application, and over a two-year process engage in reflection, inquiry and writing activities that position them to inform and contribute to the quality of OST programs, practice, and the broader field.

One of the unique aspects of the NASM Fellowship is the use of technology as a platform for learning:

  • Fellows will meet virtually in small groups with a facilitator on a monthly basis. 
  • Email will be utilized regularly and fellows will be required to post to or read materials that are located on a custom shared site.

    In addition, the fellowship includes two retreats held in Wellesley, MA (travel stipend provided), one in the fall of 2015 and the second in the fall of 2016. 

    Application deadline is June 15, 2015. To learn more about the fellowship and to access the application, please visit the NIOST website.  Learn more>>

    Click here to read more.

    Tuesday, April 28, 2015

    Explore It! Afterschool Science Program from Rutgers 4-H and NJ SACC - Now Enrolling for 2015-2016 - due June 12

    Now enrolling afterschool sites for the 2015-2016 school year.

    Enrollment is now open for this full-year program that includes six science projects. Each of the six projects lasts approximately one month, with youth (ages 8-12) meeting in their "Science Explorers" club once a week for the duration of the program. Selected Explore It! projects for 2015-2016 include – Cake Chemistry, Heating a House and an Oven, Measuring Ourselves, Sinking and Floating, Siphon Systems, and Wiring a House. Youth work in teams to explore familiar phenomena using simple materials to foster science learning. Enrollment form and deposit for the 2015-2016 school year are due June 12, 2015. For more information, visit the program’s website.

    Rutgers Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development and the New Jersey School-Age Care Coalition (NJSACC), The Network for New Jersey's Afterschool Communities, are proud to offer Explore It!, an engaging, inquiry based, and fun STEM program designed specifically for afterschool. This comprehensive and high-quality program was developed by the Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) in Boston and the National Partnerships for After School Science (NPASS2) through the support of the National Science Foundation.

    Rutgers 4-H and NJ SACC will provide (1) materials kits, (2) curricula guides, (3) three full-day professional development workshops, and (4) ongoing support and technical assistance to school and community based afterschool organizations who enroll by June 12. See the website for details, enrollment packages and options, and an enrollment form.

    Click here to read more.

    Monday, April 27, 2015

    Design It! Afterschool Engineering Program from Rutgers 4-H and NJ SACC - Now Enrolling for 2015-2016 - due June 12

    Now enrolling afterschool sites for the 2015-2016 school year.

    Enrollment Form (274k PDF)
    Enrollment Options

    Enrollment form and payment due June 12, 2015.

    Rutgers Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development and the New Jersey School-Age Care Coalition (NJSACC), The Network for New Jersey's Afterschool Communities, are proud to offer Design It!, an engaging, inquiry based, and fun STEM program designed specifically for afterschool. This comprehensive and high-quality program was developed by the Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) in Boston and the National Partnerships for After School Science (NPASS) through support of the National Science Foundation.

    Rutgers 4-H and NJSACC will provide the following to school and community based afterschool organizations who enroll by June 12.

    1. materials kits
    2. curricula guides
    3. professional development
    4. ongoing support

    This is a full-year program that includes six engineering projects. Each of the six projects lasts approximately one month, with youth meeting in their "Junior Engineer" club once a week for the duration of the program. Selected Design It! projects for 2015-2016 include – Balls and Tracks, Gliders, Paper Bridges, Rubber Band-Powered Cars, Straw Rockets, and Trebuchets. Youth work in teams to design their project, test it, and make adjustments – repeating the process as they try to optimize their design.

    Click here to read more.

    Friday, April 24, 2015

    #SXSWedu: Code like a girl

    The 2015 SXSWedu Conference and Festival is in full swing in Austin, Texas. Team SmartBrief is there, bringing readers coverage of the discussions and happenings at this year’s show.
    When it comes to learning to code, girls approach it differently than boys, according to Douglas Kiang, computer science teacher at Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii. Douglas and his wife Mary, a computer science teacher at St. Andrews Priory, an all-girls school in Honolulu, talked to attendees about teaching girls to code in their Tuesday session, “Code like a girl! Coding by design.”
    Girls want to work on projects that are meaningful, Douglas told attendees. They’re driven by altruism. “They want to know what the good is first,” he explained. “They want to help others.”
    Douglas and Mary shared three strategies to help educators better teach coding to girls:
    1. Redefine the traditional approach. “We teach programming backwards,” explained Douglas. “We start at the smallest bit and work our way up.” Instead, he encourages teachers to start with what kids already know: apps. Find out what apps students use regularly and then drill down to find out why they’re easy to use. Take screenshots of different apps and have students identify common interface features, like the “Back” button. Look also at how information is organized. Get students to think and discuss all these different elements.
    2. Increase coding literacy. Remember the three Rs of literacy: reading, writing and arithmetic? In coding, Douglas explained, it’s the three Ms: “modding,” making and algorithms. “Modding” is similar to learning to read—it includes learning to read professionally written examples of code. Students may not understand everything they see, but if they’re “modding” (modifying) the code, they’re learning to modify elements in it. Next, students learn to write code. And if they want to explore further, they look into algorithms and the relative efficiency of algorithms. “The more we give basic literacy of code,” he said, “the more we understand how things work. We understand how to be makers, we understand how to use code to create interactive props or artwork and the more successful we will be.”
    3. Build things that matter. Girls want to put meaning to their work. They want to help people or support a cause. Douglas told the story of a student he’s working with now who’s creating a game about how people and communities can recover from natural disasters. The game includes a village, which gets wiped out by floods and tidal waves. Players have to create safety structures – such as sea walls around the village or a covered harbor for boats – and pay for them with in-app purchases or game credits. A portion of the money raised goes toward helping a real village in a real country that has suffered a disaster.
    Girls get excited about coding when it solves a problem or serves a purpose, said Mary. “In designing things that matter we have them think more broadly or globally — beyond self, to serve a purpose,” she explained. “It’s all about finding things that matter.”
    Click here to read more.

    Thursday, April 23, 2015

    Launching: STEM Uncovered 2015 Video Competition

    Through support from the Noyce Foundation and the C.S. Mott Foundation, we are pleased to announce the launch of STEM Uncovered: Telling Our Afterschool Stories video competition.

    STEM Uncovered is a new national video competition in which afterschool and summer programs are invited to create a short (3 minute) video highlighting how they support innovative activities and help their students in identifying STEM careers. This is the time to spotlight the great work that is happening throughout the STEM field in your state!

    Six videos from afterschool and summer programs will be recognized at a national convening and be awarded $1,000.

    Share with your state! Below, please find more information to send to programs in your state:


    STEM Uncovered: Telling Our Afterschool Stories

    2015 Video Competition

    Deadlines: June 1 - school-year afterschool program deadline / August 1 - summer program deadline

    Prizes: 6 winning videos (3 from each category) will receive recognition at a national STEM Summit and $1,000

    Every day a light goes on in a young person's head as they grasp new concepts in science, mathematics, engineering and technology, all because an afterschool or summer learning program has created a hands-on experience where interests are sparked and passions are fueled. Now is the time to tell that story.

    Afterschool and summer learning programs are invited to create a short (3 minute) video highlighting how they support innovative activities and help their students in identifying with STEM careers. Shine the spotlight on why your program uncovers STEM learning and how your students are accelerating in this field!

    Visit for more information about the competition and video guidelines.

    Click here to read more.

    Wednesday, April 22, 2015

    12 talks to watch this Earth Day

    Planet Earth doesn’t exactly have a birthday. But every year on April 22, we celebrate Earth Day — the anniversary of the moment the environmental movement went mass.

    According to, Earth Day was founded in 1970 by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, who called for a “national teach-in on the environment” after witnessing the terrible effects of the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. The first Earth Day brought major actions to the streets of many major U.S. Cities. For fun, check out this vintage newscast from after that first Earth Day.

    Earth Day went global in 1990 and, today, is celebrated in an estimated 192 countries. Which makes today the perfect day to take time to appreciate the land, air, oceans and wildlife that sustain us — and to think about how our lives, both individually and as a group, affect the environment. To that end, here are 12 talks — some reflective, some terrifying, some beautiful, some galvanizing — to watch today.

    Earth Day went global in 1990 and, today, is celebrated in an estimated 192 countries. Which makes today the perfect day to take time to appreciate the land, air, oceans and wildlife that sustain us — and to think about how our lives, both individually and as a group, affect the environment. To that end, here are 12 talks — some reflective, some terrifying, some beautiful, some galvanizing — to watch today.

    Click here to read more.

    Tuesday, April 21, 2015

    Arts Education in NJ Continues to Grow: 97% Have Access to Arts Education

    New Jersey continues to lead the nation through the release of detailed arts education information to the public and the research findings look promising—a 4% increase in high school arts participation from the previous year with significant increases in dance and theater participation.

    These findings are based on the arts educator assignment data for all schools and the high school arts participation data from the New Jersey School Performance Reports just released by the New Jersey State Department of Education. The findings for the 2013/2014 school year are accessible through the Interactive School Performance Dashboards for Arts Education created by the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership found at

    According to the new state data, 94% of schools in New Jersey reported offering arts education programs that provide access to nearly 1.3 million students (97% of all students). Student participation in high school arts programs grew to just under 50% of all students.

    “New Jersey continues to provide innovative policies and pioneering initiatives for arts education by offering detailed information about the status and condition of arts education in every school across our state,” commented Robert Morrison, Chair of the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership. “We appreciate the New Jersey Department of Education’s support for including the arts in the School Performance Reports, recognizing the important role they play in the educational development of all our students.”

    According to Morrison, the findings also reveal that Music and Visual Art are nearly universally available (87% of schools reaching 92% of students for Music and 85% of schools reaching 91% of students for Visual Art)

    Among the other key findings for all schools:

    The percentage of schools providing Dance and Theater continues to lag (7% and 4% respectively).

    80% of schools reported the presence of both Music and Visual Art providing access to 88% of all students.

    Key Findings for High Schools:

    A total of 49.3% of high school students were enrolled in one or more arts disciplines during the 2013/2014 school year (representing 191,974 unique students). This represents a 4% growth in arts enrollment from the prior year.

    Among the arts disciplines, visual art has the greatest percentage of enrollment at 31.1% (117,613 students) followed by music at 17.5% (68,354 students), theater at 3.9% (15,261 students) and dance at 2.1% (8,087 students).

    The increases in enrollment were across the board with Dance increasing by 13.5%, Theater by 11.5%, Music by 4% and Visual Art by 2%.

    There are 7,182 professional arts educators providing arts instruction in New Jersey high schools (including 3,545 in music, 3,340 in Visual Arts, 191 in Theater and 106 in Dance). 84% of all arts teachers are assigned to one school.

    Two out of every three high schools (66%) reported an increase in arts enrollment.

    The information does not address the quality of the programs, elementary and middle school participation or the impact of scheduling changes created by recent educational reform initiatives or new statewide assessments. All of these areas require further research.

    The Interactive School Performance Dashboards for Arts Education allow citizens to interact with the information, explore student enrollment and levels of participation for each of the four arts disciplines (Dance, Music, Theater and Visual Arts) for all high schools as well as the presence of arts programs for every school. The data may be viewed by school, district, county or state totals. Schools and communities will also be able to compare their results to the averages for the entire state.

    The call for including arts education as part of annual school reporting dates back to 2007 when the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership released the first-of-its-kind New Jersey Arts Education Census Report, Within Our Power. Among the report’s many recommendations was that schools should “publicly report on an annual basis information regarding access to, level of participation in visual and performing arts education, and that this information be included as part of a state accountability system.”

    New Jersey has long had some of the strongest requirements for arts education in the nation. Since 1996, the visual and performing arts (Dance, Music, Theater and Visual Arts) have been a part of the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards and are part of the state’s graduation requirements. Additionally, New Jersey was the first state to conduct a mandated study to document access, participation and quality of arts education.

    In support of these requirements, research regarding the educational benefits of the arts for all New Jersey students (not just the gifted and talented) is compelling. Various studies have identified links between involvement in the visual and performing arts and improved attendance, school engagement, increased academic performance, decreased drop out and discipline rates and higher levels of college attendance — areas of improvement vital to student success. Just as important, the arts develop important life skills including problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration.

    A recent study found New Jersey high schools with more arts education have a greater percentage of students who were highly proficient in language arts on the High School Proficiency Assessment test. High schools with more arts education have a higher percentage of students planning to enroll in a four-year college.

    Click here to read more.

    Monday, April 20, 2015

    Front and Center: Bringing Marginalized Girls into Focus in STEM and CTE Education

    President Obama believes in the innate curiosity of every child, and our responsibility to ensure that every young woman and girl has the opportunity to achieve her dreams, regardless of what zip code she is born in.

    As part of the President’s commitment to equal opportunity for all students, the White House Domestic Policy Council and the Council on Women and Girls, the Department of Education, and the Georgetown University Law Center on Poverty and Inequality highlighted programs that focus on developing the talent of girls of color and low-income girls in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and career technical education (CTE) careers. We heard from the educators, innovators, researchers, scientists, and marginalized girls themselves who are dedicated to increasing the participation of low-income girls and girls of color in post-secondary education and in-demand careers within high-growth industry sectors.

    According to a recent National Science Foundation study, today, more women graduate from college and participate in graduate programs than men. As the White House Council on Women and Girls noted in our November 2014 report, Women and Girls of Color: Addressing Challenges and Expanding Opportunity, since 2009, both fourth- and eighth-grade math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the largest nationwide assessment, have improved for all girls of color, and since 2009 the high school dropout rate has fallen by 16 percent for black girls and 30 percent for Hispanic girls.

    From 2009 to 2012, the graduation rate at four-year colleges and universities increased by 0.9 percentage points for black women, 3.1 percentage points for Hispanic women, 2.7 percentage points for American Indian/Alaska Native women, and 2.1 percentage points for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women. Despite this progress, barriers still exist for girls and women in STEM and CTE fields. In 2010, just 10.6 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 7.9 percent of master’s degrees, and 3.9 percent of doctorate degrees in science and engineering were awarded to women of color, and fewer than 1 in 10 employed engineers were women of color.

    Many of these girls and young women continue to demonstrate an interest in STEM/CTE education, and we know that they bring new ideas, perspectives, and a passion for innovation and discovery. However, a dearth of resources effectively focused on marginalized girls, inaccurate stereotypes and implicit bias, and a lack of research informing evidence-based programs have combined to discourage many from pursuing and advancing in STEM and CTE careers. We simply cannot afford to allow these unfair and unnecessary barriers to prevent our nation from benefitting from the talents of the best and brightest Americans without regard to race, ethnicity, income, or gender.

    We are proud to announce that the Administration is working with non-profit partners to expand access to STEM and CTE for marginalized girls, including low-income and girls of color:

    • Expanding Access to STEM and CTE Programs that Work: With funding support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Girls Collaborative Project, in coordination with non-profits like COMPUGIRLS and educators from around the country, will create a new STEM/CTE portal that will centralize resources on expanding marginalized girls’ access to STEM and CTE, including curriculum, research, and promising practices. The new project will also implement educator professional development at the local level.
    • Guidance to Ensure All Students Have Access to CTE and Non-Traditional Careers: The Department of Education is developing policy guidance designed to ensure that all students have equal access to CTE programs. The guidance to high schools, community colleges, and other CTE providers will underscore that gender bias has no place in American schools and that Title IX prohibits schools from relying on sex stereotypes in directing students towards certain fields. The guidance will also help state education agencies as they think about ways to improve women’s representation in non-traditional fields as part of their Perkins Act obligations.
    • Building Public-Private Partnerships and Strong Mentoring Programs: The Departments of Energy and Education will announce the expansion of a mentoring program that connects federal government employees who are STEM professionals with teachers and middle school students to share their passion, including some of the most marginalized students. This program will expand to additional cities around the country, with a focus on students living in public housing.

    Click here to read more.

    Friday, April 17, 2015

    IGNITE: Women Fueling Science and Technology

    IGNITE: Women Fueling Science and Technology, is a global campaign and media project from the Global Fund for Women that explores the roles of science and technology in advancing gender equality. IGNITE features stories of women and girls who are leading and innovating in science, technology, engineering and math. The project also highlights the gender gap in technology and advocates for women and girls’ increased access to and control of technologies. Learn more in Global Fund for Women CEO Musimbi Kanyoro's essay, "Technology is a Women's Human Rights Issue," by clicking here.

    Click here to read more.

    Thursday, April 16, 2015

    The next MacGyver’s not a guy

    Written by Bethany Brookshire

    A hero doesn’t always need super powers or expensive cars. Sometimes, all they really need is a screw driver and some duct tape.

    Back in the 1980s and 1990s, the show MacGyver featured a spy who saved the day, not with fancy gadgets, but with whatever he had at the time. Many people decided to study science or engineering because they watched MacGyver. Now, several engineering groups are trying to bring MacGyver back. But this time, MacGyver won’t be a man. And they need you to help them come up with ideas.

    MacGyver used paper clips, rulers, tape and other simple materials to do everything from defusing a bomb to bringing back stolen diamonds. He didn’t need fancy tools. Instead, he knew a lot about science, and used that knowledge to solve his problems.

    It’s time to bring that problem-solving spirit back to TV. Until April 17, 2015, you can submit your ideas for the next MacGyver. The competition is sponsored by the National Academy of Engineering, the Viterbi School of Engineering at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and the MacGyver Foundation. It also includes producer Lee Zlotoff, who created the original show.

    The contest is looking for a show that stars a female engineer. It doesn’t have to be a show about a spy. It could be a comedy, a drama or a science show. It just needs to show the power of science-based thinking and appeal to middle- and high-school audience.

    Do you have an idea for a great show with a female engineer? Submit your title, the type of show you’re thinking of and a description of your engineer. Check out the website and make sure to follow all the rules (the person submitting the idea must be more than 18 years of age). Five finalists will get to develop a draft of their very own TV episode. And you don’t even need to bring your own tools.

    Click here to read from this article's source.

    Wednesday, April 15, 2015

    Learn to Code Stories and Games with Disney Infinity Play Lab

    Today we are excited to announce our second launch in collaboration with Disney Infinity Play Lab, starring Disney Infinity versions of five Disney characters: Anna and Elsa from “Frozen,” Hiro and Baymax from “Big Hero 6” and Rapunzel of “Tangled” fame. In Disney Infinity Play Lab, users can learn to code your own animated stories or games. Players have free rein to tell whatever story you dream up with this exciting cast of charactersand can easily share their creations online or challenge a friend.

    Our first project with, which allowed students to write code to help Anna and Elsa create snowflakes and magical “ice craft” for the Hour of Code 2014, helped tens of millions of young people in 180 countries delve into the world of creativity with computer science. To date, five million students have enrolled in’s learning platform, Code Studio and almost half of the users are girls.

    Click here to check out Disney Infinity Play Lab in Code Studio.

    Click here to read from this article's source.

    Tuesday, April 14, 2015

    Prodigy takes fun math games to a new level

    Join over 200,000 other students in a fun math game that was custom-built to teach over 300 crucial skills for Grades 1 - 8.

    Design your own wizard

    Build your own wizard from scratch and unlock powerful magic as you work your way through the world of Prodigy. Play with friends and compare awesome items in an online math game that's updated every 4 weeks.

    Adopt and train pets

    Collect unicorns, werewolves, and even a flying tiger on your road to becoming the most powerful wizard at the Academy! Children love pets, and we think they're an absolute must for truly fun math games.

    Battle monsters with math

    In Prodigy, you can battle over 100 different monsters using math. Defeat dragons with division and fend off fiends with fractions in a free math game where numeracy is your most powerful weapon.

    When math games are fun, kids learn voluntarily.

    Prodigy is changing what it means to make fun math games by creating an entire world where math is the key to success. Kids are able to play alongside their friends and share their successes in a completely safe environment. It's this social atmosphere that drives students to continue playing Prodigy at home, long after school has finished. In fact, the average student practices math voluntarily for 30 minutes/week on Prodigy for every half hour spent at school! Kids are happy to play and learn on their own time when an online math game is actually fun.

    Click here to learn more.

    Tuesday, April 7, 2015

    Beyond the Classroom: The STEM movement needs to pick up STEAM

    Written by Laurie Futterman

    Not long ago, Pluto was demoted from planethood when someone realized it didn’t meet the specific celestial criteria. In a similar twist, when the powers that be created the curriculum title Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM), they somehow lost the perspective of how the vigor of these four disciplines has been and continues to be linked to the A — the arts. Instating the A into STEM (STEAM) not only acknowledges the historical role of art in the evolution of technology and science, it also revitalizes the future of those whose talents make it so.

    A recent New York Times education article, Putting Art in STEM, reminds us of a time when art and engineering were not separate disciplines and how so many visionaries embraced the arts to create their technological feats. Back then, artists and engineers were seemingly one entity.

    Today, scientists and artists don’t seem to have much in common. On first look, even their raw materials appear different. But on closer inspection, they all pull from the universal pot of energy and matter. Stephen Beal, President of California College of the Arts says that artists and designers tend to work subjectively — they find ways to express what is seen and felt. Scientists focus on objective data to acquire and explain new knowledge in measurable, empirical processes.

    Yes, artists often deal in imagery, metaphor, illusions and emotions, and scientists, tech specialists, engineers and mathematicians tend to employ numbers, equations and data. But no one can deny the mind-boggling things that have been born from the merger of these five disciplines — the Pyramids, the Sphinx, the Moai, the Brooklyn and Golden Gate bridges and the Coliseum — to name just a few out of hundreds of thousands.

    Despite the differences in approach and materials, some of the earliest inventors and scientists succeeded to integrate scientific discovery with artistic creativity — including Archimedes’s water screw (250 B.C.), the world’s first movable type printing by Han Chinese printer Bi Sheng (1044), Gutenberg’s mechanical printing press (1450), the navigational astrolabe (1480) and Leonardo da Vinci’s parachute (1485). All of these resulted from the combined discipline of STEAM — not STEM.

    As a child, Albert Einstein studied piano and violin. As an adult, when he was having trouble with a scientific theory, he would strike a few piano chords or pick up the violin and play, and that would often free up a constructive thought or solution.

    Even the iconic Steve Jobs spoke passionately about the intersection of technology and the arts. He included this at the 2010 unveiling of the iPad. He said “at Apple, technology alone is not enough, it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with humanities, that make our hearts sing.”

    However, education and industry has lost its holistic approach over time and have become ├╝ber specialized and isolated. Although basic sketching skills are critical to the development of an engineer, few engineering schools actually require students to take art. It’s like being unilingual in a multilingual society. When an engineer can think across the math science and artistic spectrum, he/she will be able to design and create for humanity.

    Some graduating engineering students, such as those at the University of Delaware, are beginning to incorporate holism into their senior projects, such as a life-like compression simulation vest for CPR training.

    “Engineering students focused on the mechanics while the artists focused on the reality of the experience” says Provost Domenico Grasso.

    Art, architecture and design students have a huge impact on social innovation. They illuminate and help find solutions to important global issues. They all play an ethical role in collaborating to create solutions to the ever-growing list of environmental and cultural dilemmas.

    The international movement to add the arts — fine, language and musical arts — to STEM education is slow but gaining momentum. In a Texas middle school, students are not just learning about cities from books, they are building a functional city using Makerbot Replicator 3D printers to create the life and culture they envisioned. The lesson integrates math/engineering (bridge design) with the art of designing the objects their cities will need.

    Today’s students may become artists, doctors or politicians. The challenges they will inherit in the years to come will certainly demand more of creative approach to ensure their prosperity. That being said, it may be possible that our best leaders will come from art and design backgrounds.

    Government agencies are beginning to acknowledge that art and science — both dedicated to finding truth and beauty — are better together than apart. The National Science Foundation has funded a series workshops to explore STEM to STEAM themes. The National Endowment for the Arts is pushing for Artscience initiatives — intersecting art, science and technology.

    Some great free/low-cost online games that embrace STEAM concepts and get kids excited about learning include:

    • Oregon Trail: This game, which has taken many forms over the years, integrates science, social studies, technology, mathematics and language arts.
    • Fantastic Contraption: Online puzzle game teaches the basics of physics to all ages of students, from kindergarten up.
    • Minecraft: Very popular game that teaches civil engineering, city planning, architecture, chemistry and the life sciences.
    • Foldit: This game challenges players to fold proteins into new shapes that can help scientists find new ways of curing diseases.

    The “A” can no longer be ignored or isolated. The arts have been around long before S. T. E. and M. became an elitist club. In fact we owe much of our definition of homo sapien to “A.”

    Art and design may be the defining factor in the transformation of our 21st century economy — the same way science and technology was in century before. It is very possible that the STEAM, not STEM, movement may be the opportunity our country needs to maintain its role as innovator of the world.

    Click here to read from this article's source.

    Monday, April 6, 2015

    NOYCE Foundation Improves Teaching of Math and Early Literacy

    The overriding goal of the Noyce Foundation is to help adults guide young people into productive lives.

    Research shows that young people are much more likely to try to learn and retain challenging core subjects like math, science, and critical reading if they are exposed to and engaged in these topics in a variety of ways. While these kinds of experiences happen in good classrooms, they also occur outside of school time – whether in the sciences, the arts, or structured “work-based learning.” A wide range of engaging learning opportunities in school, as well as in home and out-of-school environments should be available to all kids so that they can develop academic and interpersonal skills and competencies. However, since so many kids who do not thrive educationally live in challenging home environments and attend schools that are neither stimulating nor purposeful, they need to have access to learning opportunities in other environments that are engaging, challenging, and interesting.

    To develop knowledge, skills, and interests, youth need more than just school time. They also need afterschool time and summer time pursuing interests in the company of competent and supportive adults. Engaging summer activities are particularly important as the many kids who simply stop any kind of learning activity in the summer lose both knowledge and the habits of mind that engaged learning requires.

    NOYCE seeks to build effective supports in designed environments for adults who are seeking to guide children’s healthy social and intellectual development.

    A critical experience for young people is significant time with supportive adults in activities that are interesting so they learn the value and pleasure of deep dives into subject matter, whether math, science projects, chess, birding, or the arts. These experiences build habits of work, belief in their own efficacy, and persistence skills that all kids, and especially those from low-income backgrounds, need to develop so they can navigate the range of environments that will face them as they mature.

    Click here to read from this article's source.

    Friday, April 3, 2015

    Central Jersey teams compete in Destination Imagination

    Written by Carmine Liuzzi

    Each year, Destination Imagination develops seven engaging open-ended challenges that are designed to bridge the gap between our digital and human ecosystem and what kids are learning in school.

    Teams are comprised of up to seven students ages from kindergarten to college level. Each of the teams that participated on Saturday have worked together for several hours a week with a team manager who functions as a mentor since the fall to create and realize solutions to their selected Team Challenge. The solution must be created and implemented solely by the team members with no outside interference. Then, the teams present their solution in the form of a presentation with a time limit of eight minutes to a team of trained appraisers who appraise the team's solution for creativity, teamwork and overall approach.

    Teams can select from one of seven open ended challenges that are developed each year. The challenges for this year were Creature Feature; a technical challenge, Making Waves; a scientific challenge, Lose to Win; a structural challenge, Feary Tales; a fine arts challenge, the Improv Games; an improvisational challenge, Brand Aid; a service learning challenge and Animal Mish Mash; an early-learning, noncompetitive challenge.

    In addition to the required elements of each challenge, teams have the opportunity to highlight special skills or talents of the team by designating two team choice elements, which must be a unique part of the presentation and must have a meaningful connection to the team's solution to the challenge.

    Each team at the tournament has one additional component to complete called an Instant Challenge, which are secret until the day of the tournament and may require the team to practice divergent thinking (out of the box creativity) or convergent thinking (in-the-box creativity) emphasizing teamwork and collaboration. These are divided into two types - performance-based where the focus is on working together as a team to create a theatrically oriented solution to the problem or task-based where the focus is having the team work together to move, build, change or protect materials in order to complete a task.

    Scores from the Central Challenge, Team Choice Elements and Instant Challenges are combined into a total score and the winners identified for each level of each challenge. Thirty-eight of the competing teams have won the right to represent New Jersey at Destination Imagination's Global Finals, the world's largest celebration of creativity in Knoxville in May. They will be joined by over 1,400 other teams and over 18,000 attendees total from around the world.

    This year, teams that chose Brand Aid, the community service challenge, worked on a wide variety of community needs which they identified. The DI Dogs 2.0, an elementary level team from Kinnelon, identified the Kinnelon Animal Shelter as the community partner they wanted to help. The shelter needed funds to purchase supplies to care for the animals in the shelter. They considered many different options and finally settled on a "Dynamite Night" where they offered a variety of games and events including duct taping their principal to the wall. The team raised over $300 to help the shelter.

    The Conversationalists, a secondary level team from Ridge High School, chose to work with students for whom English was a second language. They created a Conversation Club as a safe place to help ESL students assimilate smoothly into school life. The team created games to help expose the ESL students to native English speakers and to understand the American culture. This also gave the English speaking students the opportunity to connect with other cultures.

    Drive with Pride, an elementary level team from Wyckoff undertook a project to educate the community on the dangers of distracted driving. Several members of the team were either themselves involved in accidents or knew people in the community who had been in accidents where distracted driving was identified as the cause. The team developed a "Drive with Pride" brochure and handed them out to the community in order to increase awareness. They also developed a podcast to support their efforts.

    Destination Imagination teaches participants curiosity, courage and creativity. The challenges invoke curiosity so that students develop an interest in their world and can imagine opportunities to improve it, courage is gained when they learn their unique strengths and abilities and then step outside their comfort zones to pursue ideas and make presentations, and creativity is gained when they take a novel idea of their own design through to fruition.

    Destination Imagination is the world's largest not-for-profit organization dedicated to teaching students twenty-first century life skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, project management, budgeting and presentation skills for students in kindergarten through college. Annually, more than 200,000 students participate in Destination Imagination in 32 countries and 48 states. Destination Imagination has established partnerships with NASA, United States Space and Rocket Center, 3M, Oracle, Disney and Motorola Solutions to name a few. Additional information on the Destination Imagination program can be found at:

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