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Thursday, May 28, 2015

STEM poses challenges, opportunities for Madison schools

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Written by Sally Capone

MADISON – Calling it a “work in progress,” Superintendent of Schools Michael Rossi opened a presentation on the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum at the Board of Education’s meeting Tuesday, May 26, laying out the Madison school district’s vision for the program to promote creative thinking and problem-solving skills in students.
Matthew Mingle, director of curriculum and instruction for the grades K-12 district, detailed the “building blocks” of the STEM initiative, a “blended learning” approach that relies heavily on combining computer technology with other instructional tools:

Facilities upgrades at the grades 6-8 Madison Junior School and the grades 9-12 Madison High School;

  • Additional technology support;
  • Curriculum revision, and
  • Professional development for the instructional staff.
The May 26 discussion focused mainly on the components of facilities upgrades and technology support.

‘Herculean’

“We have a (technology) staff of three for the district — that’s a Herculean task,” remarked district Supervisor of Science and Technology Tom Paterson.

John LaPierre, coordinator of technology for the district, suggested adding a technology integration specialist and a technology support specialist to the staff.

Other recommendations included integrating STEM skills in the lower grades; expanding STEM offerings; investing in curriculum, personnel and facilities upgrades, and providing professional development support for educators in all disciplines.

Facilities

Superintendent Rossi displayed visual renditions of potential reconfigurations of the media centers at both the Junior School and the high school that would include retrofitting existing computer lab spaces at both buildings.

A new 3,000-sq-ft space would be built at Madison High School to house mobile furniture for a true 21st century classroom, plus a “soft furniture” study area.

“We do a lot of things really well in Madison,” Paterson observed — but he also emphasized that space is an ongoing issue, with students building robots in the hallway.

“We can do better for our students,” Paterson concluded.
Rossi advised that at the high school, “all the components are critical” to the implementation of STEM.

“There are enormous possibilities and enormous challenges,” the superintendent said. “We need to find the right combination.”

Taking Root

Curriculum Director Mingle told the board that some of the STEM program already is in place, with new electives in the elementary schools, and computer programming that doesn’t actually involve computers, but rather is “a thinking process.”

Paterson also pointed to “a change in the science curriculum — a paradigm shift from facts and knowledge, to application and critical thinking.

“There aren’t necessarily right and wrong answers.

“In the end, this is a positive thing,” Paterson said.

Board of Education member David Arthur said he hadn’t appreciated that the school district already had much of the STEM initiative up and running.

“Now I see we don’t have as much of a catchup.

“It’s nice to see what else is going on out there,” Arthur said.

Opportunities

James Novotny, the technical department supervisor at Livingston High School and a former Madison Board of Education member representing Harding Township observed, “Kids who want to do ‘stuff’ haven’t had the opportunity.

“A STEM facility is a tremendous advantage, but this program has to involve everybody,” Novotny said.

From the public, Thomas Piskula of Valley Road, who has run for the Board of Education the past two years, questioned why he had “heard little about curriculum and measured performance.”
Arthur responded that “it’s no longer about pushing out kids to four-year colleges,” noting that “steamfitters in New Jersey make $125,000 a year.”

Board of Education President Lisa Ellis said the bulk of the costs related to the STEM program would be funded from the sale of the former Green Village Road School property for redevelopment, and enhancements to the curriculum would begin at the Junior School, but she also cautioned she was not in a position to say exactly when that would happen.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Jersey City STEM school moving to once-controversial location


Written by Laura Herzog

Jersey City officials have signed off on the moving of a middle school STEM program to a site that previously sparked debate between the city and the state-controlled public school district.

Jersey City's "Explore 2000 Middle School" will be moving from its Montgomery Street facility to the Jersey City Community Education and Recreation Center (CERC) on 9th Street next school year.

The move will allow the roughly 50-student center to accommodate 200 more students, according to Mayor Steven Fulop's office.

CERC previously housed preschool rooms rented by the Jersey City Board of Education, but in March 2014, the BOE was told by the mayor and the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency (JCRA) -- which owns CERC -- to pay more to rent for the preschool rooms. Otherwise, the city would find a new tenant, the Jersey Journal reported.

Jersey City parents feared the eviction of 60 pre-k students, given a shortage of space and the expanding need for pre-K as Jersey City develops, the Journal reported.

Jersey City's district spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment about the new location of Explore 2000.

Asked about a spat between the BOE and Fulop on Friday, city spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill said the JCRA sought "a full use" for the facility. And the BOE had capacity in other facilities to absorb the 60 pre-K children, "as we said all along," she said.

"The city administration thought the STEM opportunity here will help fill another much needed gap in the [Jersey City] education system so in the end all needs will be met," Morrill said in an e-mail.

In a statement, Fulop praised the school, saying Explore 2000 offers students access to the "STEM" fields of science, technology, engineering and math, "giving them the tools necessary to succeed in high school, college and beyond."

On May 19, the JCRA board unanimously approved a five-year lease agreement with Hudson County Schools of Technology, allowing Explore 2000 to relocate to CERC for the 2015-2016 school year.

It included a renewal clause and an option to purchase the 9th Street facility, the release stated.

Morrill said the tenant will pay the following rent to the JCRA, plus all utilities: (Year 1) $150,000; (Year 2) $195,000; (Year 3) $241,000; (Year 4) $275,000; and (Year 5) $310,000. Jersey City offered to pay $78,000, according to the Jersey Journal.

Currently, the CERC contains classrooms that are not being used. The gymnasium is used by the St. Anthony's High School Basketball team and community groups, Morrill said, and they will continue to use the facility.

This switch-up will also let the school "develop new, hands-on lab space," the city said.

Though only 80 middle school students are enrolled for the fall, officials are hopeful the school will serve approximately 240 students by the 2019-2020 school year.

Explore 2000's Jersey City students can go on to competitive STEM-focused high schools, like the county's High Tech High School, the city stated.

Adults will also be offered career and educational programming at CERC, thanks to the partnership, the city said.

Praising the partnership, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise said "STEM education" is the "watchword today for young people in Hudson County dreaming of a brighter future."

Click here to read more.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Join The Connectory for #STEM #STEAM


Use The Connectory to collaborate with STEM programs and promote your upcoming STEM opportunities to families. Programs are organizations providing STEM opportunities. Opportunities are time-bound STEM events such as summer camps, one-day events, workshops, career fairs, and competitions, and are automatically promoted to visitors based on their location.

Add your opportunities now so they will be available to the families across the country accessing The Connectory!

  • Join: Make an account profile
  • Create: Add your organization/program
  • Approval: Your program listing will be approved so it can be searched for by program providers
  • Add: Add all your STEM opportunities
  • Approval: Your time-bound opportunities will be approved so they can be searched for by families
  • Discover: Search for other programs providers to connect with
  • Opportunities are visible publicly to families. Programs are visible to other STEM providers.

The National Girls Collaborative Project  Program Directory is now The Connectory.

Move over Barbie! A range of 3D-printed dolls with walking sticks, hearing aids and birthmarks launches after social media campaign for more diverse toys goes viral


Written by Maybelle Morgan

While some may just see a doll as just a plaything, some parents see them as another way to learn.

Now British toy manufacturer Makies has launched a range of 3D-printed dolls with visible disabilities in an attempt to improve diversity in children's toy boxes. The little models come in response to online campaigns like Toy Like Me which criticise the limited representations of adults available for young children.

The range of three dolls, which are also diverse in race and appearance, are in direct opposite to the artificial mannequin shape of a Barbie doll. Each one comes complete with different characteristics such as birthmarks and scars and one of the dolls is visually impaired, with a walking stick and glasses.

Another wears two hearing aids and makes the 'I love you' sign in American sign language. The developer, Makies, used 3D printers to create the dolls, just days after Facebook group and community, Toy Like Me, reached an audience of 50,000 with their posts of toy 'makeovers' by parents of disabled children.

The 'makeovers' saw toys being given additional features such as hearing aids, stomach tubes and small guide dogs, as parents rallied for toy brands to be more inclusive of children with disabilities. The custom-designed Makies range are the world's first 3D-printed doll and retail at £69. The company have also revealed that they are currently working on a wheelchair version soon, and planning on trialling bespoke face characteristics on the dolls. This way, parents would be able to create a toy with exactly the same birthmarks or scars as their child.

The Chief Technology Officer of MakieLab, Matthew Wiggins said: 'It's fantastic that our supercharged design and manufacturing process means we can respond to a need that's not met by traditional toy companies. 'We're hoping to make some kids - and their parents - really happy with these inclusive accessories.'

While the community-run Facebook group that incited all the developments are content with the latest addition to the toy box, they are calling for other major toy manufacturers to follow the same example. They recently posted: 'Come on LEGO, Playmobil, Mattell Barbie, 770,000 UK children with disabilities (and millions more beyond) need positive toy box representation now!'

Click here to read more.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Join The Connectory


Use The Connectory to collaborate with STEM programs and promote your upcoming STEM opportunities to families. Programs are organizations providing STEM opportunities. Opportunities are time-bound STEM events such as summer camps, one-day events, workshops, career fairs, and competitions, and are automatically promoted to visitors based on their location.

Add your opportunities now so they will be available to the families across the country accessing The Connectory!

  • Join: Make an account profile
  • Create: Add your organization/program
  • Approval: Your program listing will be approved so it can be searched for by program providers
  • Add: Add all your STEM opportunities
  • Approval: Your time-bound opportunities will be approved so they can be searched for by families
  • Discover: Search for other programs providers to connect with
  • Opportunities are visible publicly to families. Programs are visible to other STEM providers.

The National Girls Collaborative Project  Program Directory is now The Connectory.

Interested in informing specialized digital badge credential opportunities?


The National AfterSchool Association is gathering information about professional development training and specialized and digital badge credentials. If you are a school administrator, an afterschool program supervisor or employer, or a front line afterschool staff member we are interested in hearing from you! Would you be willing to take a short survey to help inform future work in support of Out-of-School time professionals?

If so, please take the survey as soon as possible - click here to begin!

The National Afterschool Association (NAA) knows your time is valuable so upon completion of the survey there will be opportunity to enter a drawing for a $25 gift card (they'll be giving five away so you may actually win)! To be eligible, please fill out the survey by Friday 5/22

If you know of others who have valuable knowledge to share, please also forward this to them.

Click here to begin!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

June Heats Up with Exciting STEM News at Girls STEM Collaborative (GSGSC)

Click here to signup to receive future GSGSC newsletters!
Click here to read the latest GSGSC Newsletter now!

The Garden State Girls STEM Collaborative is the New Jersey initiative of the National Girls Collaborative Project, a program focused on providing high quality STEM activities to girls. Their primary goal is to strengthen the capacity of girl-serving STEM programs to effectively reach and serve underrepresented girls in STEM by sharing promising practice research and program models, outcomes, products and by connecting formal and informal educators, business and industry in order to maximize the resources that can positively influence our girls. Contact Mike MacEwan for more information how you can become involved.

In their latest issue, the Garden State Girls STEP Collaborative Project spotlights:
  • Join us SAT 5/30 in New York for The Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum (LVM) Educator Training
  • Does Your Organization Need STEM Mentors? Does Your Company Mentor? You're Invited May 26 and June 3 Virtual Town Halls
  • Due 6/15  New National Afterschool Matters Fellowship from NIOST
  • Explore It! Afterschool Science Program from Rutgers 4-H and NJ SACC - Now Enrolling for 2015-2016 - due June 12 
  • Design It! Afterschool Engineering Program from Rutgers 4-H and NJ SACC - Now Enrolling for 2015-2016 - due June 12
  • Launching: STEM Uncovered 2015 Video Competition 
  • Got STEM? Let us Know How You're Supporting STEM or STEAM in Afterschool!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Join us SAT 5/30 in New York for The Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum (LVM) Educator Training


Date: Saturday, May 30, 2015
10:00am - 3:00pm
Time Zone: Eastern

Location:
National American Indian Museum
One Bowling Green
New York City, NY 10004
United States

The Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum (LVM) is an innovative bi-lingual lab for online games, simulations and virtual worlds that highlights Smithsonian arts and science collections. The LVM enhances visitor knowledge and appreciation of Latino cultural heritage through online activities. The LVM Teacher Toolkit supports educators with integrating this robust collection of on-line resources into their existing STEM +Arts programs.

This free training is open to teachers and informal educators including full access to the on-line Teacher Toolkit and take home curriculum. Recommended for grades 5 to 8 classrooms and out of school time programs.

The toolkit includes six bilingual modules that explore three themes:

  • American Experience
  • Sustaining a Bio Diverse Planet
  • World Cultures

The New York Training will include:

  • In-depth review of Educator Toolkit and overview of the six modules and interactive tools available
  • Step by Step Training of the CerĂ¡mica module that explores archeology activities related to World Culture
  • Overview of the Watershed module related to Sustaining a Bio Diverse Planet
  • Lessons learned from pilot programs
  • Optional tour of CerĂ¡mica exhibition at museum

Criteria and commitment to participate in Educator Training:

  • Access to computers and internet to fully utilize the transmedia resources in your classroom
  • Implement at least one module into classroom or program curriculum in Summer 2015 or Fall 2015
  • Your program/classroom has Latino students
  • Participate in a Webinar that will address additional questions after attendees have had an opportunity to use LVM on their own.
  • Complete evaluation

No cost for training and access to all LVM materials, including the Educator Tool Kit.
REGISTER TODAY by signing up below
NYSUT will provide in-service hours and certificates to teachers who attend

Click here to read more.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Does Your Organization Need STEM Mentors? Does Your Company Mentor? You're Invited May 26 and June 3 Virtual Town Halls


Does Your Organization Need STEM Mentors?
Does Your Company Mentor?

During these two calls, Million Women Mentors will offer a strategic overview of the movement, including our five suggested pathways to mentor, an update of the State of the States (30 teams mobilizing across the nation), and a deep-dive on the new MWM web-portal, powered by Tata Consultancy Services. Hope you can join us for whichever call is most aligned withy our needs.



Click here to register for May 26th
Click here to register for June 3rd

About Million Women Mentors: An initiative of STEMconnector, MWM is a collaboration of companies, government entities, non-profit organizations, professional associations and state leadership teams to advance girls and women in STEM careers. This initiative drives mentorship for girls and women ages middle school through careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Launched in January, 2014, MWM already has 60 national partners reaching 30 million girls/women, 30 major sponsors, 30 state leadership teams and 250,000+ pledge commitments to mentor.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Girls just want to code. The trick is making sure they don't stop


Written by Donna Tam

his story is part of Solving for XX, a CNET special report exploring what people and companies are doing to make the tech industry more diverse, more equitable and more welcoming to women.

When Pooja Mehta entered her first robotics competition, in February, she saw a familiar sight: a room packed mostly with boys.

Mehta and her sixth-grade teammate were the only all-girl duo in the 18-team regional Science Olympiad Robo Cross competition. They placed 10th.

Even as an 11-year-old, Mehta knows not many girls want to learn engineering and programming. But Mehta always did -- thanks in part to watching her father, Ash, CEO of PatientClick, a company focused on electronic medical records.

"My dad used to work on the computer all day and I'd be, like, 'Hey dad, can you teach me all that?'" she says. Yet even with the support of her family, she didn't feel she could tackle something as complex as robotics or programming.

"I thought it was too hard for me or I couldn't do it," Mehta says. "It was too much work." That changed after Mehta attended Qcamp, a two-week program for girls hosted by San Diego-based chipmaker Qualcomm that taught coding, app design and robotics.

"Qcamp was the one place that I found other girls like me," said Mehta, who speaks in quick, short bursts as her mind jumps from thought to thought -- from robotics to the fun of programming to one day becoming the CEO of her own software company. "Before, I'm the only one doing this. Everyone else thinks it's stupid. Now I know there are other girls that are just as much interested as me."

Qcamp and programs like it could be the levers that ultimately tip the tech industry's gender imbalance. The reason, say observers: Too few women work in tech because too few women graduate with STEM (science, technology, engineering math) degrees. The key is to get girls interested in those subjects while they're young -- and to keep their interest through college.

"If I had not been exposed to this field when I was young, I would not have chosen it," says Twitter software engineer Sharon Ly, who volunteers as a mentor for Girls Who Code, a nationwide organization that aims to teach coding to 1 million adolescent girls by the end of the decade.

At the end of last year, 3,000 girls had completed one of its programs, and 95 percent of them went on to major in computer science, the organization says.

That success rate isn't remotely typical.

While 74 percent of middle school girls say they're interested in STEM, just 0.3 percent of high school girls choose computer science as a college major, according to Girls Who Code. As a result, the number of first-year undergraduate women majoring in computer science plummeted 64 percent between 2000 and 2012, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology. As of 2012, women represented just 18 percent of all computer science graduates in the US.

Team spirit

So why are so few women pursuing STEM degrees? Educators and other experts say girls and young women will often retreat into a shell when sitting in a classroom dominated by boys.

"In high school, I didn't really know any other women coders," says Kat Slump, a 19-year-old sophomore studying IT innovation at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. "It wasn't that big of a deal, especially with six or seven people [in the entire advanced placement class]."

Yet in Slump's first two years of college, she saw the number of female coders drop dramatically after the introductory courses. The disparity began interfering with her studies. "Put me in a room with 25 males and I'm the only female, I won't ask the normal questions. I'll wait until after class, or try to figure it out on my own," she says.

Slump's experience in class highlights the need to change how schools teach computer science, says Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College and a Microsoft board member.

"If you're a technical woman working in an institution -- whether it's a company or academy where 85 or 90 percent of the people in your role are male -- even with the best of intentions there's going to be a lot of experiences where you feel like an outsider," Klawe says. "If you don't feel a sense of belonging, if you don't feel like you're being supported, you're more likely to leave."

Harvey Mudd and Carnegie Mellon University are trying to change that through education reform. At Harvey Mudd, undergrads can wait until the end of their sophomore year to declare a major, even one as intensive as computer science.

The school also included more women in its brochures, added more female campus guides and revised its introductory courses to emphasize programming as an outlet for creative problem-solving -- not just theory or brute-force computation. Carnegie Mellon eliminated programming experience as an admissions requirement and established mentorship programs for women.

The result: both schools have seen skyrocketing computer science declarations. In the last four years, the number of female computer science majors at Harvey Mudd tripled, and women now represent two out five students in the department. At Carnegie Mellon, women represent more than 40 percent of all incoming freshman to the School of Computer Science -- its highest percentage ever.

"One of the things that happens when you make an effort to make a learning and work environment really supportive -- independent of gender -- is you get a lot more people," Klawe says.

Click here to read more.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Cleveland Indians Have Home-Field Advantage on Recycling


CLEVELAND — Well before the start of a Cleveland Indians game at Progressive Field, as players warmed up on the jewel-green field, it was business as usual in the garage behind left field for C. L. Gholston, a dishwasher.

He had wheeled down gray bins full of kitchen scraps — pineapple and melon rinds, carrot shavings and tomato ends — that were all part of the mix he fed into a contraption he calls the energy machine.

Built by InSinkErator, the garbage disposal maker, the machine grinds all types of food waste, including skin, fat, flesh and bone, into a slurry that is later transformed into energy and fertilizer at a plant operated by the renewable energy company Quasar.

As governments and industry seek to reduce emissions of methane — a more powerful heat-trapping gas than carbon dioxide — by limiting the amount of organic waste in landfills, large food processors are looking for new ways to get rid of their leftovers. Food waste, an estimated 34 million tons a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s most recent figures, is the largest component of landfills, which are responsible for roughly 18 percent of the nation’s methane emissions.

Here in Cleveland, the Indians began using the process last year, following the Browns, who started in 2013, and a casino has recently joined the effort. InSinkErator’s system, called Grind2Energy, is winning customers elsewhere as well, including at some Whole Foods Market stores in Boston.

“We’re a wasteful nation,” said Steven M. Smith, Quasar’s chief financial officer. The company, he said, repurposes “material that is either being landfilled, incinerated — that’s not good for the economy — and we extract the energy and concentrate the nutrients, and we have water at the back end.”

Both InSinkErator and Quasar see potential in their system, which uses naturally occurring bacteria to speed decomposition. Less than 5 percent of American food waste is recovered and recycled, but it can be a potent source of energy for electricity, heat and transportation fuel.

The idea of using food or municipal and farm waste to generate energy is not new. Europe is far ahead in harnessing biogas, said Mackinnon Lawrence, who leads the Energy Technologies and Utility Transformations programs at Navigant Research. In the United States, with plenty of land left to fill, he said, there had not been much incentive to change the practice of dumping organics, so it has remained “a niche opportunity,” but one that is expected to expand.

A recent Navigant report for the Advanced Energy Economy, a business-backed policy and advocacy group, estimated that the waste-to-energy market could generate $40 billion in revenue over the next decade. Already, energy-recovery projects contribute nearly $500 million in annual revenue in the United States.

Wastewater and manure treatment plants have been using anaerobic digesters to capture methane for decades. Some companies like Waste Management convert landfill gas to vehicle fuel for use in their trucks, but much of it is still collected and burned off.

As government policies shift to encourage extracting the energy from organic trash, the United States is beginning to catch up. The East Bay Municipal Utility District in California, for example, has been funneling food waste from restaurants and other large producers to a digester for years as part of a federal pilot program, and some cities have experimented with similar diversion efforts. Harvest Power, a start-up backed by Waste Management and Kleiner Perkins and based in Waltham, Mass., has been operating a facility in Orlando, Fla., since 2013 that turns waste from Disney World into fuel and fertilizer.

In theory, adding food to digesters processing manure or sewage has advantages, said Chad Kruger, director of the Washington State University Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, chief among them that it increases methane production. But without an infrastructure in place to handle, transport and process the material, building that kind of energy system has been too difficult and expensive to spread widely.

“We’ve kind of stalled out on some of these issues,” he said. “That said, the industry, the composters, in particular the bigger ones, are really set on this — they think it’s the right thing to do.”

The partnership between Quasar and InSinkErator follows years of research and development at both companies. Managers at InSinkErator had been looking into the potential of anaerobic digestion and energy production at wastewater treatment plants. They came upon Quasar, a fast-growing company that was incubating its business at Ohio State University’s agricultural research campus in Wooster and was aiming to build a digester network nationwide.

“One of the things that they basically were looking for was a clean feedstock of organic material that was consistent and low in contamination but had high energy content in terms of methane potential,” said Matt Whitener, general manager of the Grind2Energy business at Emerson, the parent company of InSinkErator. “On-site, point-of-generation grinding technology was kind of the missing piece to make an efficient model where the food waste generator has a mechanism to convert their food scraps into a slurry.”

At Progressive Field, Mr. Gholston and the other dishwashers feed loads of food waste into the grinder, which is about 13 to 20 times as powerful as home models. The milkshake-consistency slurry that results from the discarded fruit and vegetable peelings, uneaten pasta, used cooking grease or leftover hot dogs that cannot go to a food bank is then pumped into a 3,000-gallon tank.

Once the tank signals to Grind2Energy that it is full, Quasar is alerted to send a truck to take the mass to its plant, where it is put into giant anaerobic digesters full of bacteria that break down the slurry. The system captures the released gas, which is then converted into electricity for the grid or transportation fuel. The leftover solids become fertilizer.

Peg Kalberer, assistant manager of concessions at Delaware North Sportservice, which runs the stadium’s food operation, said she was happier with the system than one that funneled the waste to a composting company, in part because it helps document their sustainability efforts.

“Over all it worked, but this is better,” she said. “I don’t know what happened to the product when it left. Here I know exactly what’s happening: 90 days from tank to energy.”

Click here to read more.