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Posted by on in Early Childhood

alg classroom kids

The list of consequences for kids forced to sit too long is a lengthy one. Among other things, sitting is now considered as detrimental to health as is smoking (the human body was built to move!). Research also has shown us that sitting increases fatigue and reduces concentration, neither of which is an optimal condition for learning. And we all know that young children need to physically experience concepts to best understand them. So, when I tell you that too much sitting in classrooms also leads to an inability to master body and spatial awareness, you might think that it’s no big deal, considering the other consequences.

But let’s ponder it. As adults we use our body and spatial awareness to navigate through the world. We can (usually) walk down a crowded sidewalk without bumping into a lamppost, or maneuver our way around trees on a crowded ski slope. We find our way to work and through large shopping malls. We fit our cars into narrow parking spaces or garages and, more importantly, keep our cars from coming into contact with other cars, people, or objects. We understand the social customs that dictate we not be like the “close talker” depicted on an episode of Seinfeld. We understand that some people do not want to be touched. And when a hug or a handshake is appropriate, we’ve learned how strong and how long it should be.

These are lessons that cannot be learned by sitting at a desk. Like so much else in early childhood, body and spatial awareness must be experienced and practiced if they’re to develop fully. When a baby is born, we realize she doesn’t come equipped with a perfectly functioning proprioceptive sense (awareness of her body in space). That’s why we play “I’ve got your nose,” “This Little Piggy,” and knee-bouncing, lifting, and spinning games with her. But when she starts navigating her way through the world via crawling and walking, the only consideration we give to her spatial sense is whether or not she’s going to bang into the coffee table. And if she doesn’t – or doesn’t continually – we take for granted that she’ll be able to successfully navigate her way through the world.

And maybe she will. But we’ve all had children in our classes who line up too closely to one another, and who bump into everyone and everything. We’ve all had children whose desire to “crash and go boom” overrides any respect for personal space. Who hug or tag or poke too hard. Who view themselves as clumsy or uncoordinated and therefore lack confidence in their physical abilities. And many a child has shown up in second or third grade not knowing his elbow from his shoulder, or unable to distinguish the difference between a lowercase “b” and a lowercase “d.”

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Posted by on in Education Resources

STEM logo

You've probably noticed that STEM and STEAM are really buzzy terms in the field of education these days. If you are new to the teaching field, or even a veteran ready to liven up your lessons, then this is a great time to leap into STEM. However, as an already very busy teacher, it can be daunting to change up your curriculum.

The good news is, if you are teaching in a minds-on, hands-on way, you are most likely already incorporating STEM into your teaching. Here is everything you need to know about why you should be teaching STEM lessons, what it means exactly, and how to get started.

What is STEM?

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Posted by on in Inquiry-Based Learning

Marshmallow fluff

    When I taught fourth grade, I was initially met with skepticism from other teachers when I started to regularly engage my students in project based learning (PBL) and STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). I think much of this apprehension existed because some of my practices did in fact perpetuate the myth that PBL was fluff and that the “real” teaching and learning takes place through more direct instruction. However, as I continuously reflected upon and refined my craft, many of these doubters went from, “That wouldn’t work with my students!” to “How can that work with my students?”

    Looking back, I still think some of my original PBL practices were forgivable, simply because I had to begin somewhere (Don’t we all?). But, there are definitely some bits of advice I wish I had been given prior to getting started.

    That being said, here are five ways to avoid project based learning fluff.

    1. Focus on the Right Academic Standards: When planning a project it could be tempting to simply start with “cool” ideas, as opposed to first exploring what should be taught based on academic standards (or a standards-aligned curriculum). As a fourth grade teacher I participated in an elementary level STEM initiative. Following the initial professional development I went to plan my first STEM unit, only to realize my curriculum was a bit outdated. So, rather than wasting time designing learning experiences aligned to old standards, I first created an updated makeshift pacing guide to ensure any units I put together would be future proof (until a change in standards, which has still yet to happen).

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    Posted by on in ShiftParadigm

    img_7815

    Never did I ever think there would be a 'part deux' to  blogging about speaking in The White House, until it happened again. Most people don't get invited to the White House, let alone twice. It's humbling, it's surreal, it's one of those experiences that you get to share with your kids and their kids.

    About a month ago, I received an invitation from the Office of Science & Technology to attend both the #CSforAll forum and a PD session on what other districts from around the US and its' territories are doing. These meetings are the results of numerous initiatives from The President with the goal of getting computer science classes, programs, clubs, activities, or all of the above into all schools. While it sounds like a very broad and ambitious goal, it is. To give every student the skills needed in order to succeed in today's society has always been prized as a local initiative. However, when the President of the United States sets an initiative, you want to follow through on it, and use every resource you can.

    The workshop in the AM was fantastic; it contained leaders, teachers, government officials, and students from around the country, US territories, and even Native American Tribes.  I got to hear about how uber-wealthy, dirt poor, gigantic, minuscule, districts had students writing code from grades K to 12. I heard about how a southern California high school  rolled out a series of CS classes; I heard how a school district of over 230 schools in Florida started an hour of code and turned it into a massive community outpouring.  I was floored with how a tribe in Oklahoma has Kindergarten students coding on the reservation. Meeting students where they are is an understatement.

    The afternoon was a summit with national partners that highlighted students, companies, colleges, public & private schools, and the government have come together to promote computer science for all.   From the Girl Scouts to Megan Smith, the Chief Technology Officer of the United States, it was a fascinating afternoon.

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    Posted by on in What If?

    Preschool STEM

    While most early childhood teachers are comfortable with learning centers, fewer probably would say they’re comfortable with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), a real focus in education these days. But Deirdre Englehart, co-author of STEM Play, approaches learning centers through a STEM lens and believes themes can be integrated into centers to promote creativity and higher-level thinking. Deirdre joined me on Studentcentricity to discuss this, along with educator Jill Berkowicz, who is co-author of The STEM Shift.

    Following our discussion, Deirdre contributed the following additional thoughts:

    Most children are engaged in STEM when they play in learning centers. Teachers can enhance the STEM learning when they provide specific materials in centers and when they introduce activities prior to learning centers. In this way, teachers are not directing learning centers, but they can plant the seeds that may grow through play. During learning centers, teachers can observe children and consider the STEM connections. They can assist children, ask questions and interact with them in ways that do not disrupt the flow of play. At the end of learning centers, teachers can invite children to share activities, explain ideas or provide additional information that may strengthen and support learning. The use of language can help children to solidify ideas they had during play. Teachers can also provide specific vocabulary or share related information as children share their experiences.

    Jill further elaborated:

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