Towards systemic improvement in the Finger Lakes

May 28, 2012

Lisa Ryerson
Wells College

I am delighted to join the Board of Champions of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub.  As the long-time president of Wells College in Aurora, along the shore of beautiful Cayuga Lake, I am well aware of the need for quality education in science, technology, engineering and math across the spectrum of higher education. Here in the Finger Lakes region we have an especially rich and diverse mix of educational institutions and a wealth of knowledge.  Our challenge, of course, is to translate our commitment to STEM education, our capacity for excellent teaching, and our potential for transformative learning, to broad and effective action.  I believe in joining together in this collaborative coalition, we have the best chance of creating systemic improvements and for STEM education. I look forward to working with this dynamic group of educators and leaders for the benefit of our students and our communities.

This is STEM!

May 17, 2012

Michelle Kavanaugh
Honeoye Falls-Lima School District

Note:  This is fifth in a series of posts by members of the Finger Lakes STEM hub Steering Committee and Board of Champions. Dr. Kavanaugh was a speaker at the Finger Lakes STEM Hub Launch on May 10th, 2012. Below is the transcript of her presentation.

This is an exciting moment for regional K-12 education.  The Hub is one of the most promising supports in our mission to assure all students are college and career-ready. At a time when local employers are being forced to leave STEM-related jobs unfilled, school districts and colleges share a mandate in providing students with pathways and experiences that lead to a more vibrant future.  Together, we face a new-era Sputnik-type of imperative to change the course of education.

STEM education is a catalyst for a new tomorrow because it can engage, excite and empower.  It can lift up learning because it challenges students to think critically, collaborate and solve complex problems.  It can inspire because it is built on forging four meaningful connections.  Here is what I mean:

#1)  Connections with the Real World – Nothing is more motivating for learners than when rolling up their sleeves to do hands-on experiences that are relevant to their interests and to their future opportunities.  For example:  Solving authentic environmental problems or interning in local businesses – this is STEM!

#2)  Connections across Content Areas – Students are involved in solving complex problems when they can design new solutions and explore innovations by applying knowledge broadly across subject boundaries.  For example:  Robotics competitions – this is STEM!

#3)  Connections with Higher Standards – STEM learning is rigorous and aligned with industry standards as well as state and national core curriculum and the newly-released Next Generation National Science Standards.  For example:  the Hub’s plan to inspire student created video productions based on inquiry and media literacy, as seen in the Hub’s Video – this is STEM!

#4) Connections with Business and Community – STEM learning requires the active involvement of leaders and enlightened volunteers across economic sectors.  For example:  partnerships that support learning with the Rochester Museum & Science Center, Siemens and Xerox – this is STEM!

The Hub is poised to provide schools support for professional development, and sharing of innovative practices.  This gives us hope and great promise. A recent Hub-sponsored tour of an East Syracuse school district is an example of the work of the Hub in building local capacity through valuable networking.

On behalf of K-12 educators, we call on each of you to join us in making STEM education a local covenant for building a better future.

Michelle Kavanaugh is a member of the Finger Lakes STEM hub Steering Committee.

Why do I belong to the Finger Lakes STEM Hub?

May 15, 2012

Mary Thomas

Note:  This is fourth in a  series of posts by members of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub Steering Committee and Board of Champions.

Because working together to improve student opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math is our future! In terms of the big picture, I believe that our country needs students prepared in STEM disciplines in order to be successful in the decades ahead. As a Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES Elementary Science Program educator, I know that our area abounds with STEM opportunities for teachers and students – but those opportunities are sometimes difficult to find for the folks who most need them.

In the Finger Lakes STEM Hub, we educators openly collaborate with movers and shakers from the real world of work. As a Hub, we will be able to provide a clearinghouse of information to help all types of educators take advantage of the vast Science, Technology, Engineering and Math resources of our area. We will make STEM opportunities easier to find for whoever needs them.

We have a voice as Hub members. We have a platform from which to let businesses know that our students and teachers want to see how you are using STEM disciplines. They want to know what types of skills you need and why you need them. Help our students see the applications of the school work that they do – it is so motivating for them.

I belong to the Finger Lakes STEM Hub Steering Committee because the Hub represents cooperation between organizations and across boundaries. At BOCES, cooperating with others is our middle name (BOCES stands for Board of Cooperative Educational Services).  At the Elementary Science Program, we provide STEM resources (such as teachers’ guides and materials) for public and private schools throughout our state. I know first-hand that science instruction in elementary schools has been negatively impacted over the past 10 years. In some places, elementary science (and certainly technology/engineering) education happens only by reading articles – if at all. STEM Hub members know that elementary students are integral in the pipeline for STEM careers. Without a solid elementary foundation in STEM disciplines, students are not inspired, excited, or willing to go into STEM careers. They think that it is “too hard” and they are not smart enough. The pipeline for STEM careers begins here.

Mary Thomas is Assistant Director at the Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES Elementary Science Program. Mary is also the Science Teachers Association of New York State Director-At-Large for Elementary Science.

Mary Thomas is Assistant Director at the Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES Elementary Science Program, the Science Teachers Association of New York State Director-At-Large for Elementary Science and a member of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub Steering Committee.

STEM Is a Strategic Priority

May 10, 2012

Joseph Marinelli
District Superintendent
Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES

Note:  This is third in a  series of posts by members of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub Steering Committee and Board of Champions.

There is an economic imperative in this country.  It is that our economic vitality depends on growing the knowledge and skills among our youth so that our country can compete internationally.  Global competition is fierce.  If we want to maintain our standard of living and quality of life we must focus on making more students college and career ready, and more students must become interested in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) disciplines starting in the early grades.  They must seek to pursue careers in those areas while in high school.  The importance of creating career pathways for students starting in the early grades can not be underestimated.  The Board of Regents and SUNY have made STEM a top priority.  Our Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES interest in supporting economic development through STEM started in 2006 when it was set as a strategic priority.  In our region, we created awareness activities with educators, government officials and business representatives, provided regional leadership in STEM, improved science curriculum materials, expanded teacher workshops, and created strands of STEM activities for students which continue today.  We provide related enrichment activities for elementary and middle school students, and have expanded our rigorous career and technical education offerings articulating with post-secondary education to include renewable energy, engineering technology, training in geothermal, solar and wind energy, and home energy analysis, with additional support of start-up funds from NYSERDA.  But this is just the beginning of our long-term strategy to add and expand more opportunities for students.  Because of our partnership with the Finger Lakes Workforce Investment Board and its Regional Skills Alliances, in Health, Advanced Manufacturing and Skilled Trades, and our regional colleges, we remain very committed.  I am pleased to be an advocate on the Finger Lakes STEM Hub Board of Champions.

Joseph Marinelli is  a member of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub Board of Champions.

What Is STEM? A Video…

May 10, 2012

John Frontuto

A few months ago I didn’t even know what STEM stood for. There I was sitting in a meeting trying to get my hands around what this organization does and create a video for them. Imagine my surprise when Daren, our videographer, and I go out and interview elementary kids who know exactly what it is. I thought it might be fun to see them guessing what exactly STEM stands for. No such luck. I had to find some adult college students before I could stump anyone. I met a retired Kodak worker sitting at a table surrounded by rocks. He enjoyed hiking and wanted to be able to identify what he found in the wild. I met a young woman from Ethiopia who wanted become a doctor. She and her brother as small children dreamt of finding a cure for AIDS. I met a 11 year old, with the coolest mohawk hairdo, who with his fellow classmates, was working on a project involving the good that skate parks in inner-city neighborhoods could do. I also met an 8 year old who knew he was going to grow up to become an engineer because he loved his Legos.
We tried to capture some of their and our excitement in the video for Stem Hub launch. Hope you enjoy it. I’m just glad I got to meet a  bunch of amazing people to explain to me what STEM stands for.
What Is STEM?…A Video

John Frontuto and Daren Hammond are part of the Video Production Unit for the Public Safety Training Center at Monroe Community College and a member of the Community Awareness and Involvement Working Group of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub.

All students need STEM

May 8, 2012

Jonathan Franz
Dean of the Genesee Valley Center of SUNY Empire State College

Note:  This is second in a series of posts by members of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub Steering Committee and Board of Champions.

As a person with a life-long interest in science and graduate training as a neuroscientist, I am committed to helping our educators at all levels to excite students about the value of scientific inquiry. Understanding the world around us is becoming more important than ever.  The dangers to the planet of population growth, air and water pollution and global warming have been understood by scientists for quite some time, but are still controversial among the chattering classes and the general population. Technological advances in manufacturing, information management, and various service industries demand constantly increasing levels of technical expertise from employees at all levels. And yet, student achievement in STEM fields in the United States is slipping relative to other countries. If the US and the world are to continue to enjoy prosperity and a high quality of life, we need to educate the next generation to think in scientific and mathematical ways, to think critically about public policy issues, and to make decisions based on scientific reasoning rather than political rhetoric. For the special group of students with a high aptitude for science and math, we need to help them overcome any economic and social barriers to their success. They will be the innovators and problem solvers of the future.

Jonathan Franz is a member of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub Board of Champions.

May the STEM of learning be with you!

May 6, 2012

Kimberle Ward
Naples Central School District

Note:  This is first in a series of posts by members of the Finger Lakes STEM hub Steering Committee and Board of Champions.

Working with the Finger Lakes STEM Hub committee to prepare for this exciting launch has been a real passion of mine. After teaching Biology and Chemistry for 14 years my hope was to preserve the integrity of the sciences, along with technology, engineering and math as a school district administrator. Many of my colleagues have been overwhelmed with the Regents Reform Agenda, Race to the Top (RTTT), and the many mandates facing school districts that focus primarily on English Language Arts (ELA) and Math. I shared the vision of my peers serving on this committee and taking on the challenging work of creating a local Hub. I wanted to be sure there was a formal awareness and support for school districts to maintain a strong academic program for the Sciences, Technology and Engineering while meeting the demands of educational reform in the areas of ELA and Math.

The Hub is a collaboration of people that see the benefit in teaching our students how to problem solve, use inquiry, and participate in hands-on learning through STEM, and for many through STEAM (adding an “A” for the arts). There has been recent research to support the value of a strong STEM education that can be integrated into the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS). I recently read an article that voiced a real concern for Homeland Security and Secret Service type careers-they report that we do not have students pursuing STEM fields that will ensure progressive/modern improvements in the United States’ ability to compete with our global neighbors. Our job, as the Finger Lakes Hub is to work collaboratively with UPK-12 educators, Colleges and Universities, and more importantly workforce providers to make STEM learning interesting, inspiring, and fun for all students. This is hard work, but exciting work. May the STEM of learning be with you!

Kimberle Ward is a member of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub Steering Committee.