Why STEM and PBL? Well, you have the usual answers of....it is engaging for students, makes real world connections, builds collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity, creates opportunities for career exploration, and expands across the curriculum. But we, as STEM experts, must continue to refine and define our definition as we share these dispositions across the world. I found that out this week as I worked in Alabama. I can say the same things that I know are true- but I have to constantly keep improving my knowledge and expanding my connections to make it real for teachers and educators. This week we made connections to the Indian Town Mound of Northern Alabama, Auburn University's engineering department, Wells Fargo, and local agriculture agencies. These connections (organized by the teachers) will make learning come alive for students in Phenix City. Students will be publishing books based on Solids, Liquids, and Gases; creating budgets, writing resumes, and applying for jobs; exploring the field of electricity as they build doorbells and security systems; designing multi-media projects based on the study of Indians from Alabama; integrating space and history in the middle school; and creating habitats and studying the life of plants and aquaponics. THAT is STEM and PBL- It's not WHAT we do but WHY we do it. (Thanks Robert Corbin for sharing this video with me) Keep an eye out for Phenix City- they are fired up to change the world, one student at a time!
I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a scientist and a teacher. My mom and dad, both, instilled in me the desire to be curious and share that curiosity with others. I remember taking the can opener apart just so my dad could help me put it back together. I was in charge of taking care of all plants and animals in my mother's classroom- long before I ever became a student. We spent two weeks every summer in the Great Smoky Mountains. I would find bugs and build them homes, classify plants (never got the poison ivy classified correctly), and spent lots of time floating down the river and naming the fish. Never once did my parents say stop- you can't do that because you are a girl. Instead they encouraged me to learn as much as possible about the world around me. Their motto was that it was never too early!
Fast forward to middle school and the story almost ends. None of my teachers encouraged me to take apart the pencil sharpener. No one thought that I could possibly take care of the box turtle that played around in our classroom tank. When it was time for science projects, the girls were encouraged to bring in leaves, while the boys built rockets. My natural curiosity was somewhat squelched and so was my desire for knowledge. All of those moments of exploring as a child became distant memories.
Thankfully, the story doesn't end there. In my junior year of high school, I met Mr. Munsten. He was my anatomy teacher. I can tell you that although I still secretly loved science, I didn't tell anyone but somehow this teacher knew. He asked me to become his lab assistant. He showed me his new dissection tools when they came in. He would see me in the hallway and give me a new book on biology. He, like my parents, believed in me and began to provide kindling for my small, hidden, flame. Because of him - I knew that my love of science could now be combined with my desire to be a teacher. It's never too late.
30 years later- I look back on my life and see how it could have ended up very differently. I see how choices of my own could have influenced my career, my chance encounter of meeting my spouse, and my life now. (You see- I almost didn't take the anatomy class but my other two choices were full)
I say all of that to say this.....It matters what we say to our children. It matters what we do with our children. It matters because they matter. Had my parents and teacher not instilled the love of science and curiosity into me- I could be working in a 9 to 5 job just pushing papers. My passion would not have been fulfilled. Now I travel all over the country and share the love of science and STEM with teachers and students. It would have NEVER happened without those chance encounters. We need to do whatever we can to show our young daughters (and sons) that they can do ANYTHING that they want in life. Never put them in a box because that's what society says. Take your children to museums, plays, parks, science exhibits, sporting events, cooking classes, dancing classes, just anywhere that they can learn! Give them what they need today to change tomorrow. Walt Disney says it best. "We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." Stay tuned for a monthly blog on how to instill these ideals of curiosity into our children because it's never too early (or too late) to start.
My precious daughter, Mollie, wrote this last night while holding her own little baby boy. Please read and share!
Because babies born in 2016 need to be taught something different that what we are seeing now.
To the Mamas of black babies living in America;
To the Mamas giving birth in the middle of war in Syria, in her own home because the hospital was bombed last week;
To the Mamas fighting hard to get help and reunite with their baby in foster care;
To the Mamas who made the brave decision to keep the baby currently growing, unplanned, in their belly;
To the Mamas who lost their little baby way too early;
To the Mamas with the babies that have an extra special chromosome;
To the Mamas afraid of their babies growing up in this scary world;
To the Mamas that gave their baby up for adoption;
To the Mamas whose husbands are away defending our country;
To the Mamas in the NICU, so proud of your strong baby, but so afraid;
To the Mamas without biological children, who are a parent to so many;
To the Mamas raising your baby alone, working two jobs and barely making ends meet;
To the Mamas who are tired, beaten down, barely holding it together:
Mamas, our babies are growing up together. They will change this world together. They have so much to learn, and we have to teach them. They are still young. Innocent. They don't yet know how awful this world can be. Let's teach them something different. Let's teach them to be brave. To not be afraid of our differences but recognize that they make us beautiful. Lets teach our babies how to listen. How to hear the pain and struggle in someone's voice and to know that just because something doesn't hurt us personally, doesn't mean it isn't hurtful. Lets teach them to see their worth. To look in the mirror and see no flaws. Lets teach them how to see. To see that this world is so much bigger than we think. Let's teach them to be kind. Lets teach them how to talk. To know that our speech doesn't have to be harsh, but that we can speak to each other with love. Let's teach our babies to be bold. To speak up for the hurting and the oppressed. Let's teach our babies about God. To know that He is always by their side. Lets teach our babies hope. That the pain they feel in this life is temporary.
To the Mamas teaching their babies how to love, you will change this world.
It's going to take all of us. If one of our babies learns hatred, it will spread like wildfire. Like a nasty virus, it will infect them all. Let's teach them something different.
Mamas, it starts now.
Back in the day I remember playing arcade games like Tetris, PacMan, Donkey Kong, and Pong. I thought I was pretty tech-savvy, even though my VCR still flashed 12:00, 12:00, 12:00. But those games were for another generation- another time....right?
Not so! This summer, the Eades Family from Mt. Airy, North Carolina, went out on a mission to build their own family arcade and bring those games back to life. Now this would have been a cool undertaking for any family- but it was especially cool because it was part of mine. A few years ago- our families blended- and it has been a wonderful experience- but back to the arcade.
Ty and Ashley Eades are not your normal parents. I mean, they are normal (somewhat) but they are unique in that they build experiences for their two young children, Jay (10) and Evey Sam (7). This summer was no different. They decided to design, collaborate, and create their own family fun. Ty (an Application Development Manager with Old Dominion Freight Line), Ashley (an educator and Media Specialist- now stay at home mom), and the kids went down to the workshop and came up with something pretty spectacular.
Ty taught the kids how to safely suit up for the construction of the arcade and they begin to make magic happen.
Why is this of such interest to me? It's because we need to be developing the culture of communication, creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking in our children. In a world of "I'll just google that" or "Just tell me the answer"- we need to do everything possible to help the next generation begin to think on their own. It's not (and can't be) just the teacher's job. These parents (my family) are making sure that their children are ready for whatever career comes their way. I love that! They could have just purchased the arcade or taken them to play a game when they asked- but instead they are instilling the values of hard work and pride into Jay and Evey Sam. It will be an experience that they won't ever forget. And, they will become pretty good gamers too.
Remember that FAIL means "First Attempt in Learning". If you ask Ty, Ashley, Jay, or Evey Sam, they will tell you that they made some mistakes with this- but with every mistake, a lesson was learned. I would say that this was a summer well spent.
Photo Credits: Tymon Eades, Ashley Eades, and Steve Jones!
Sometimes the road ahead takes a turn. It has been a great three years in Durham Public Schools but I feel called to move on. On July 1st, I will become the COO of Engage! Inspire! Expect! Inform! LLC. This small business that I created several years ago will become my new full-time job. As a friend just recently said, "It's time to go out on your solo career." I will also be announcing another venture in mid-July. Can't wait to share that with you.
For now- look out for new STEM labs, camps, professional development offerings, and more. I can't wait to turn the page on this new adventure! Thanks to all who have encouraged me; including my dear husband and CEO of our new company. It's a whole new world and we can't wait to get started.
Dr. Drizzle- OUT!
Welcome back to Community STEM with a brand new challenge. This week we are going to explore the world of catapults.
When I hear the word catapult, I think of my 6th grade history class where we studied the Middle Ages. Those weapons were used for hurling stones during battle. Today, catapults are used in many different situations. Sometimes the military uses catapults to launch planes on aircraft carriers. They are also used as popular thrill rides at amusement parks. At Carowinds (located on the NC and SC line) there is one such ride called the SlingShot. A pair of cables catapult a two-person capsule nearly 300-feet into the air – nearly as high as the Statue of Liberty – at speeds up to 60 mph. After some brief weightlessness, riders will zoom back toward the ground, often rotating head-over-heels and bouncing up and down until they come to rest at the launch point. Sounds like fun but believe me, you might lose your lunch.
A catapult is a device used to launch or throw something a great distance without electricity. There are many types of catapults, including trebuchets, mangonels, and ballistas. A trebuchet is one of the most powerful types. The way it is built gives it lots of potential energy. When the catapult drops its load, kinetic energy goes to the object being thrown, and that object (or projectile) is launched with a lot of force.
CHALLENGE: Your challenge will be to design and create a catapult to launch a large marshmallow and knock over plastic cups that are placed at least 3 feet away. You may use any of the following materials:
EXTENSIONS: Use the science of catapults to solve an every day problem.
DISCOVERY EDUCATION DIGITAL MEDIA:
Join us this week on Community STEM for a hair-raising trip on the world’s greatest roller coasters AND build your own. Riding a roller coaster is a rite of passage for many children. Starting off on a small coaster with one or two hills and then riding as a pro on a 800 foot, corkscrew, looping, hairpin turn, straight drop coaster was my experience. This week we want you to research the science behind roller coasters and then build your own. Let’s take it a little further by drawing up a blueprint, purchase materials, build, and design an advertisement to sell and promote your coaster.
Students can build roller coasters using materials from local hardware stores. (Pool noodles are also easy to use and cost efficient) Paper Coasters are great for initial designs. Students can study potential and kinetic energy, Newton’s Laws, and gravity while building their coaster. When coasters are complete- a class competition could be held to determine the winners for best design.
Discovery Digital Media (if you do not have access to Discovery Education- Check out You Tube and Teacher Tube)
This week during Community STEM, our STEM Challenge involves choosing your favorite sport and designing or redesigning a piece of safety equipment. You must provide evidence of the need for such equipment, develop a prototype, and defend the costs involved. Develop an ad or commercial selling your product. You may work alone or with partners.
Discovery Education Digital Media
Community STEM is tasting pretty good this week or at least it will be once you participate in this challenge. We are encouraging you to create a new food item for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack time. You will need to research food chemistry, develop the recipe for a new food, design the packaging, and plan a meal. You will meet Pam Inabinett, a DEN Star, from Charleston, SC who will be introducing this week's lab.
Super Challenge: How much would it cost to make this new food item? Could this new food item be useful in a third world country? If so, how could you get it there?
DEN Star Intro
Discovery Education Digital Media:
Virtual Field Trips:
Social Share Out:
I’m so excited about this week’s STEM challenge. It seems as though every television channel you view has something to do with DIY (Do It Yourself). This week’s challenge is to build a tiny house. We will start with a easy model based on a fairy tale.
1st Challenge: So the three little pigs are pretty bummed that their house was destroyed when a tornado came through town. Now they have to rebuild only using slabs (toothpicks) and nothing else. Once you have built your house to your satisfaction, you must lay a index card on top and add weight- pennies will work.
2nd Challenge: Once you finish that task- dig a little deeper. Why don’t you make a tiny house that has at least one complete circuit in it. You can use boxes, masking tape, wires, batteries, and flashlight bulbs. Make sure that you consult an adult when you get ready to wire up your home. Remember to design first- a blueprint will help you get started and keep you on track. It’s okay to make mistakes! FAIL means “first attempt in learning”. Once you finish your project- share out with the hashtag#communitystem and/or tweet to @discoveryed
Discovery Education Digital Media
I encourage you to talk with your CTE teachers at local middle and high schools. They can give you advice on which classes to take while in school. Most of the careers listed below have CTE courses in most districts.