Monthly Archives: November 2016

Teachers Bring Design Process to Life in the Classroom

Teachers want to strengthen their practice because we want to prepare our students to succeed. We want to engage them, and we want to bring STEM learning to life.

That is why I was eager to participate this summer in RESET, the Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) devoted entirely to educator development. Through the program, I completed 64 hours of online learning and collaboration with fellow STEM educators. These sessions focused on the Legacy Cycle of Learning, which begins with a real-world engineering problem and is designed to help students organize and manage learning activities in the lab in a meaningful way. The engineering design process enables students to apply skills and knowledge from all aspects of their education from social studies, to science, to math and language arts.

I also worked on-site at the United States Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory (USAARL) in Ft. Rucker, Ala. with Adrienne Madison, Ph.D., and her colleagues as they established plans and protocols for their upcoming head supported mass research study. The study focuses on testing helmets for medical safety. Witnessing the collaboration in this working laboratory firsthand has greatly helped me teach and nurture collaboration in my classroom.

Following my on-site RESET experience, I returned home to Erie and led a group of three teachers in the development of a Legacy Cycle lesson that focuses on concussions and the science of football helmets. This lesson requires students to design, test and build an improved football helmet to prevent traumatic brain injury—a lesson following the Legacy Cycle of learning to engage students in creating a solution to a real world problem. I am now rallying my community to raise funds for materials supporting this lesson. I plan to lead this cross curricular STEM unit on concussions in my STEM lab, where students complete hands-on experiments to solve real-world challenges. I am confident it will go a long way in helping my students strengthen their application of biology and physics knowledge and skills to think critically, while using creativity, communication and collaboration skills.

All of these experiences helped broaden my perspective and ability to teach the engineering design process, a critical learning process for students that mirrors how real-life engineers solve problems. (The process typically follows these steps: ask, plan, imagine, create, improve and communicate.) However, perhaps the greatest outcome was walking away with ready-to-use classroom lessons that I developed with fellow educators. Being part of this online network of teachers from across the country has taught me invaluable lessons about the implementation of STEM across grade bands and STEM resources available at the middle and high school level.

How are you engaging your students through the engineering design process? Tell us on Twitter at @USAEOP.

 

By Lindsey Dahl

GEMS AND CAMP INVENTION ALUM BECOMES ONE OF PRESIDENT OBAMA’S KID SCIENCE ADVISORS

GEMS and Camp Invention alumnus Khristian Ward received special recognition from President Obama last month for proposing a valuable STEM solution to a problem plaguing thousands of veterans every year.

In his search for Kid Science Advisors, the president recently invited students from around the country to submit STEM projects and inventions. President Obama received more than 2,500 submissions, but selected only 11 of these students, including Khristian, to meet with him personally at the White House as his Kid Science Advisors. A fifth grader from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., Khristian proposed creating a brain microchip to help soldiers overcome PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), an idea inspired by his own father’s experience with PTSD after two Army deployments in Iraq. “I want to help him and other soldiers like my dad,” Khristian said. He also submitted an idea for lighter body armor to help soldiers avoid back problems.

While Khristian’s winning submission incorporated military science, his dream is to study aerospace and space exploration. In fact, Khristian visits the Goddard Space Flight Center near his home every month to launch model rockets.

Read all about Khristian’s groundbreaking ideas and his exciting meeting with the Commander-in-Chief! Keep up the great work, Khristian!

A School-Work STEM Balance that Works!

katherine“Sign me up!” This was Katherine Clohan’s immediate reaction to a GEMS flyer encouraging local students and professionals interested in teaching science to kids as a Near-Peer Mentor (NPM).

Gains in the Education of Math and Science (GEMS) incorporates very talented and dedicated students that work as NPM’s each summer. Katherine, a graduate student working toward a Chemistry degree at Auburn University, has always found serenity with a school-work balance.

During Katherine’s second year as a NPM this past summer, she taught neuroscience and forensics to sixth and seventh graders. It was rewarding for Katherine to work with some of the underprivileged kids. For some, science meant reading out of a text book.

“I had a lot of kids this year that saw how science was fun and full of cool things,” said Katherine. “Because the students had that hands-on experience, they saw that science was more than just reading out of a book.”

Katherine had a pivotal moment in her college career while working as an NPM. She initially went to college deciding to be a doctor, then discovered through GEMS that her calling was chemistry and teaching.

“I told the kids you might have a plan now and figured out, but you’ll get to college or you’ll find something else and all your plans go out the window,” says Katherine. “It’s OK. It’s OK to have your world completely turned upside down. Just find something you are happy doing.”

Even though Katherine’s doctorate program is 4-5 years long, she’d love to continue with GEMS by writing a curriculum, working with kids for a week, or even being a speaker during one of the GEMS workshops.

katherine2This same inspiration has kept Katherine’s work-school balance going. This past summer during her neuroscience workshop, kids dissected a cow’s eye. When most students were done in 15 minutes, they were anxious to pull everything apart. For one student, however, dissecting a cow’s eye gave him a new awareness. The student realized he found something that he loved.

According to Katherine, the students enter GEMS expecting a normal experience until they find an experiment or hear from a STEM professional that connects the student with science.

“Their eyes light up and now they can’t wait to tell mom about it,” said Katherine. “That’s what makes it good for me because I now know that I’ve successfully passed on my love for science.”

Outside of Katherine’s busy work-school life, she enjoys reading, road trips with her best friend, and her new furry edition, a cat named Mendeleev.