2015 STEM Holiday Wish List

November 25, 2015

Ready to start your holiday shopping? This year there are more STEM-inspired gifts than ever!wish-list

While there are far too many choices to provide a comprehensive list, we’ve tried to give an overview of what is new this year, and what parents we’ve spoken to are looking for.

Tight on space or have too many toys?  Some clutter-free ideas:

Spin off their current favorites:

  • Do your kids love the popular TV series Shark Tank as much as mine? STEM Center USA was the focus of a recent episode, a company that focuses exclusively on innovative STEM products.

    3D carving brings your ideas to life!

    3D carving brings your ideas to life!

  • Look around at what they play with the most.  Is there another level that will enhance their play?
  • Do they like carving?  Take it up a notch to 3D carving.  Inventables has a great selection for the makers on your list.

Great ideas for Girls:

Did you know that today’s elementary school girls are actually more interested in pursuing a STEM career than their male classmates are? (souce:  Fortune) And yet, there is still a great disparity in the field (see our recent blog on this topic).  Toy manufacturers are responding to this increase with STEM-inspired offerings specifically with girls in mind.  Some highlights:

Keeping girls engaged in STEM!

Keeping girls engaged in STEM!

  • The folks over at Mighty Girl always put together a great holiday list, and they didn’t disappoint this year.  Building Her Dreams:  Building and Engineering Toys for Mighty Girls focuses on classic building, construction and engineering toys, while the Holiday Gift Guide has a broader variety, with selections broken down by age group and category.
  • Goldiblox has a wide range again this year, from a line of real-life hero action figures to award-winning construction toys, this company focuses on maintaining the natural curiosity that many girls have, and giving them playthings that nurture their interest in building and engineering.
  • At Project MC², where “smart is the new cool” they have apps, videos, games and plenty of gear for girls of all ages.
  • Roominate is another girl-inspired, girl-led company focusing on inspiring and encouraging girls to pursue their interests in engineering by teaching girls through play.

Looking for lots of ideas to browse?

STEM Wish Lists:  Many major retailers have caught on to the STEM interest and now have their own guides available with tons of choices in every price range

The Classic Building Blocks:

No holiday STEM list would be complete without a Lego mention.  Legos are a holiday classic for many families.  While you are shopping for new sets or accessories to complement what you already have at home, take a few minutes and join the Lego Club (FREE!) which gives ideas and inspiration to your builders throughout the year.  Since most STEM-enthusiasts already have a healthy collection of Legos at home, we’re going to suggest our favorite accessories.

Just a dream for 2015, hopes are high for 2016!

Just a dream for 2015, hopes are high for 2016!

  • Brick Separator – these make great stocking stuffers!
  • Base Plates – you can never have enough of these
  • Lego Storage Systems – many ideas, for any size collection!
  • Lego Slippers – sadly these are only available in France this year, but this item is sure to be a hit among parents.  Who among us hasn’t felt the agony of a stray Lego underfoot? Hopefully our 2016 Wish List will be able to announce that they are available on our side of the pond.

Whether you are planning on battling the crowds on Black Friday, or going with the tech-friendly Cyber Monday, we hope we’ve given you a few new ideas.  Please share with us your own finds and suggestions!

 


Summertime STEM: Fizz Boom Read!

June 12, 2014

The library has always been a great place to find summertime activities for children.  This year, with a science theme that brings science and reading together, the result is a winning combination that is sure to entertain the kids and keep their reading skills up – all while doing some really cool science activities! Readers of all ages are invited to participate in science-related activities that include chemistry, robotics, biology, astronomy and much more.

Fizz Boom Read

FIZZ BOOM READ is the theme for Summer 2014 for many libraries around the country, as part of the Collaborative Summer Library Program.

The Monroe County Library System has put together a brochure highlighting activities held at every library in their system, and you can also find library-specific activities online or in person at your local library.

Along with the children’s program, many libraries are offering programs for teens and adults that stay with the science theme.  “Spark a Reaction” is the program for teens, and “Literary Elements” is for adults.  Get the whole family in on the fun!

If you’re looking for ideas to do at home that go along with the library theme, you can find hundreds of ideas online.  Several Pinterest boards devote themselves exclusively to this theme, like the Fizz Boom Read 2014 Summer Reading Program board and SRP 2014 – Fizz, Boom, Pop!  We also have an entire page dedicated to FUN STUFF on the Fingerlakes STEM Hub website.  Check it out!

Of course, while you are at the library you should take a look at the many science-themed books that you can find on the shelves.  From activity manuals to non-fiction fact books, and fictional stories about science to biographies about your favorite scientist, there is something for everyone to be found at your favorite library.  Don’t find what you are looking for?  Don’t forget about inter-library loan, an inexpensive way to check out books from every library in your region, delivered right to your local library for pick up.

Discounted Admission to local museums!

Discounted Admission to local museums!

While you are at the library, check out a V.I.P Pass, which gets you discounted admission to places like the Genesee Country Village and Museum, George Eastman House, GEVA, Memorial Art Gallery and the Rochester Museum and Science Center.

What science-based activities and stories are you looking forward to this summer?  Please share your ideas!

 


Guest Essay: NYS Should Adopt the Next Generation Science Standards

May 23, 2014

Kimberle Ward addressed Regent Norwood at the May Meeting of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub

My work with the Finger Lakes STEM Hub has been a passion of mine. The Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) have provided an equitable playing field for students throughout New York State as well as the Nation. With the implementation of the CCLS our STEM learning standards have been addressed in isolation. It is time to fully align and integrate STEM learning skills P-12.

The opportunity to speak with Regent Norwood was an honor. On behalf of educators my message was composed to share the urgency to continue the momentum of the teaching and learning improvements we are experiencing with the CCLS and adopt/adapt the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Regent Norwood,

The research highlights that when provided with equitable learning opportunities, students from diverse backgrounds are capable of engaging in scientific practices and constructing meaning in both science classrooms and informal settings. The NGSS account for the changing demographics of our schools and place every child on a fair and equitable playing field.

College and Career demands the ability to problem solve by forming a hypothesis and testing it out. These are the skills our students need to be successful professionally and personally.

The demographics of our schools are rapidly changing. We are facing challenges as a result of increased poverty levels and the presence of families in the United States seeking better opportunities for their English Language Learners.

The NGSS are rigorous, they place every child on a level playing field, and they make connections to the ELA and Math standards. Our students need to be exposed to STEM learning opportunities in a world that is globally connected with competitive demands that will continue to focus on the success of students throughout the United States.

Integration of subject areas strengthens science learning. Science is currently being de-emphasized. We cannot afford to disregard the 21st century learner and learning skills K-12. We need to excite, inspire and motivate our students to use inquiry and problem solving to explore the wonders of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The NGSS provide these opportunities.

The crosscutting concepts are overarching scientific themes that emerge across all scientific disciplines. These themes provide context for new disciplinary core ideas that enable students to develop a cumulative, coherent, and usable understanding of science and engineering. Concepts are integrated and interrelated supporting a rigorous set of standards for increased learning and deep understanding.

The time is now, why wait? Teachers are embracing the shifts in ELA and Math, making the shifts in Science reachable and doable. Developing modules using the NGSS that imbed the ELA and Math standards will certainly provide a cross-discipline of learning, making it relevant and rigorous. This is critical especially for our K-6 teachers who often disregard or spend less time on Science standards due to lack of competence, confidence, and connections. the NGSS provide these connections.

With a strong engineering component present in the standards our students will have increased chances for a decent, well paying jobs. Engineering provides opportunity to inspire creativity and innovation…the very things that will position the United States to be much more globally competitive.

The progressions are critical for deep understanding of the foundational concepts of science and engineering. We can no longer teach these concepts in isolation of each other. Please, our STEM learning commitment needs to be aligned and the NGSS give us hope for improved learning in the area of Science and engineering. We cannot wait, our students deserve a set of standards that speak the language of 21st Century learning skills needed to improve and advance. This makes good sense, providing a model for innovation and commitment to our students K-12, by adopting the NGSS, will continue to motivate other States to emulate the work of our NYS educators. They have embraced and persevered the work…because they believe this is what is best for KIDs!  

Thank you.   (Presented at STEM Hub Meeting, May 9, 2014)

Kimberle A. Ward is the Superintendent of the Gates Chili Central School District.  In addition, she is the Previous Superintendent of the Naples Central School District, and taught Science at the Middle and High School levels for 14 years prior to Administration.


Exciting new Incentive Program for NYS STEM Students

May 14, 2014

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced an exciting new Incentive Program for college-bound STEM students across New York State.graphic header

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the launch of the New York State Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Incentive Program, which will encourage the best and brightest high school students to pursue high-demand, high-tech careers and build their future in New York. The program provides a full SUNY or CUNY tuition scholarship to the top 10% of students in every New York high school if they major in a STEM field and work in a STEM job in New York State for five years after graduation.  (May 6, 2014)

There are several eligibility criteria, such as an applicant must:

  • Be a NYS resident
  • Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
  • Be enrolled full time at a SUNY or CUNY college beginning with the fall term following his or her high school graduation
  • Be ranked in the top 10% of his/her high school graduating class of a NYS high school
  • Be matriculated in an undergraduate program leading to a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics at a SUNY or CUNY college
  • Earn a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.5 or higher each term after the first semester
  • Execute a service contract agreeing to reside and work in NYS for five years in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics. View the terms and conditions of the service contract
  • Not be in default on a student loan made under any NYS or federal education loan program or repayment of any state award
  • Be in compliance with the terms of any service condition imposed by a state award

For more information about this incentive program, please visit the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation website.  You’ll find all the details you need, including how to apply, and special details and restrictions.


First Meeting of the WNY STEM Hub

January 23, 2014

Question:   How do you grow a new STEM Hub to over 5 times its embryonic size in just 7 weeks?

Answer:   You have help from a Mentor Hub and use the exponential power of “paying it forward” with every new introduction.

The Western New York region of 5 counties, bounded by such landmarks as Niagara Falls, Lake Erie and Allegany State Park, recently became the last region to plug into the Empire State STEM Learning Network. We began our establishment with stewardship from the NYS Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences (COE). The COE hosted our first meeting on November 21, 2013 with a Founders Steering Committee of approximately 20 members.

Since that Founding Meeting, we have: grown our Steering Committee to over 80 members, established a Board of Champions of over 20 members, charged five Ad Hoc Groups to initiate tasks essential to developing our infrastructure, initiated an online Moodle Learning Site, adopted working Mission/Vision Statements and began our Strategic Planning. On January 9, 2014, 56 of our new members participated in the first joint Steering Committee-Board of Champions Meeting to network and discuss our opportunities for future action.

On hand at that January meeting were Sara Silverstone, Director of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub, and Phil Ortiz, Coordinator of the Empire State STEM Learning Network. Sara has been an invaluable Mentor in supporting our first steps by providing guidance and allowing the WNY Hub to use resources, such as the Finger Lakes Hub Mission/Vision which became a model for our work in WNY. The successes of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub will continue to serve as examples and an inspiration for WNY. Phil’s support of our evolving Hub in WNY has been another catalyst for our growth by encouraging the Mentor Hub relationship, linking us to other Hubs in New York State and assuring the ongoing interest of SUNY.

WNY STEM Hub Photo  credit:  Cattaraugus/Allegany BOCES

WNY STEM Hub’s Initial Meeting
Photo credit: Cattaraugus/Allegany BOCES

With a membership of over 100 and growing, we feel that our opportunities are endless and anything may be possible. The possibility for “collective impact” for STEM learning in WNY is strong. We believe that interest in STEM and in our Hub’s work will continue to grow. We challenge our members to remember that networked organizations thrive when each new introduction is “paid forward” by introducing others to STEM learning and to the Hub.

We want to thank Sara Silverstone and the Finger Lakes STEM Hub for guiding us in our work. The WNY STEM Hub looks forward to collaborating and growing together with our Mentor Hub to the East of us!

Guest Blog written by:  Michelle Kavanaugh, Ed.D., Facilitator

WNY STEM Hub of the Empire State STEM Learning Network


This is STEM!

May 17, 2012

Michelle Kavanaugh
Superintendent
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.


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.