New Summer PD: Careers and Relevance

April 29, 2016

Counselors! Teachers! Educators!

We have changed up the Summer Professional Development Institute offered by the Finger Lakes STEM Hub this year. More tours and hands-on field experiences, a bit less in-class time, less project-/problem-based learning emphasis (don’t worry! We will still cover the basics using tools from the Buck Institute for Education).

Career signCounselors, think about how you can tie real jobs and skills needed for those jobs to actual career paths students need to take The technical, two-year, hands-on certificate programs like Optical Systems Technology, Precision Machining in Optical Fabrication, or Solar Thermal Technology at Monroe Community College and Food Processing Technology at Genesee Community College to the traditional four-year programs like Optical Engineering at University of Rochester or Environmental Engineering at RIT or Biochemistry at Nazareth College. With industry tours, networking lunches with local professionals, and hands-on field explorations, you can see the local job market, hear the skills needed, and experience first-hand what is needed for students to succeed in the region. [Note: the above programs are local examples, not all will be touched upon in class!]

Teachers, you can see how the topics and skills you teach come to life in the real world, solving everyday local challenges all the way to working on international problems with tiny parts created right here in the region. You will become more familiar with career pathways, traditional and non-traditional, and hear from industry leaders what skills are important and just how our local region is taking the world by storm, creating all levels of jobs your students can easily fill.

So, sign up and come explore student engagement, project-/problem-based learning, 21st Century skills, career & college readiness, and network with local professionals to enhance your teaching and experiences for students.

Click here to see the full course description, and to access the registration link.

Betsy Ukeritis is the Inter-regional Environmental Educator at the NYS Dept of Environmental Conservation.  She is also an active member of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub Steering Committee and the FL STEM Hub Summer PD Institute Committee

Unlearning Scientific Misconceptions

January 8, 2012

In an eye-opening video clip available  though Annenberg Learner, we see Harvard graduates unable to complete to complete a simple experiment taught in third-grade: how to light a lightbulb with a wire.  A one-hour video from the same series (“From Thin Air”)  shows the Harvard graduates unable to explain basic concepts about plant growth, and then goes on to investigate the sources of common misconceptions that prevent learning from elementary school on.

Misconceptions arise when students are confronted with scientific concepts that are counterintuitive. For example, many students never truly grasp the idea that the weight of a tree is mostly carbon absorbed from CO2. They have heard teachers explain photosynthesis but since they don’t believe that air has weight, they consistently assume the weight in a tree trunk must come from the water, or soil or minerals…something that has weight. Show them dry ice; a form of CO2 that clearly has weight and they are very surprised! This is an example of a discrepant event.

According to Binghamton University Professor Thomas O’Brien, experiencing a discrepant event, with its surprising, counterintuitive outcome “creates cognitive disequilibrium that temporarily throws learners mentally off-balance”. In his book, Brain-Powered Science: Teaching and Learning with Discrepant Events” (NSTA Press, 2010), O’Brien describes 33 hands-on activities that can lead students and teachers to question their implicit assumptions.

Effective inquiry teaching begins by finding out what students already know, including their misconceptions, and then guiding them to questions their assumptions and discover new knowledge for themselves.

As we all know too well, what typically happens in the classroom is that teachers “cover material” and students try to memorize as much as they can. Even hands-on labs often do not challenge students to solve problems and question assumptions. Some students are very good at memorizing and repeating information (the Harvard graduates in the video clip, for example) and others fail miserably, but neither is really developing a deep understanding of concepts, or learning science. Research shows that more is not better, when it comes to exposing students volumes of detailed information through lectures or textbooks.  The brain learns through making connections to prior knowledge, so dispelling misconception is an essential prerequisite for new learning.

See Dr. O’Brian’s keynote address: Misconceptions Matter: Where Do They Come From? Where Do They Go? at the Central Western Section STANYS Winter Workshop at Nazareth College, Feb. 9, 2012

RAC-CEMS STEM Teaching Institutes

February 6, 2009


Can you believe it’s already time to start thinking about summer? What a great time to look at the professional development opportunities that are available.

RAC-CEMS is pleased to announce that we will offer unique opportunities for learning and improvement by sponsoring seven STEM Teaching Institutes.

2009 STEM Teaching Institutes:

  1. Developing Mathematical Ideas: Building a System of Tens
  2. Inquiry in Earth Sciences
  3. Using Zebra Mussels for Good, Not Evil
  4. Finger Lakes Ecology Watershed Workshop
  5. Inquiry-based Interdisciplinary Mathematics, Science, Technology and Literacy
  6. Math, Science, and Technology Institute
  7. Hands-on Environmental Science Activities using GLOBE

Visit our webpage for detailed information and links to an online application.  Online applications will be available March 2nd and are submitted directly to The Center for Excellence in Math and Science.

The institutes span grade levels and subjects areas, with emphasis placed on Math and Science. Each STEM Institute supports the NYS Learning Standards using active learning to deliver a high quality professional development experience.

We welcome any questions or comments regarding the Institutes via email or by responding to this blog. We appreciate the community’s continued support, and look forward to seeing you this summer!!!

Keep Your Kids Interest in Science with Holiday Gifts

December 8, 2008

Do you have a kid that is interested in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM)? Do you want to get your kid interested in these subjects?

When I was a child, I always had an interest in putting things together. I still do! I don’t know if it is a learned behavior or not. I loved puzzles. I wanted to help my dad put the bike (or anything) together. I saw my older brother putting together his toy model car and I wanted to do that! But that was a boy toy. I couldn’t play with it or get one for myself! Now, when I buy or someone gives me something that needs to be put together, I don’t go to sleep until it is. Just in case you’re wondering, I got BS in Computer Science and now I’m studying to be a High School Math Teacher.

I also collected bugs. Yes, I was a girl who collected bugs! I don’t remember why I started doing this. It may have been for a school science project and then I made it a habit. But, whenever I saw dead bugs around my house or on my way home, I picked them up and put them in a yogurt cup in the kitchen closet. They may even still be in my mom’s house! After a while, I was able to see the bones or interior structure of some of them. Even though it’s not what I studied, I love biology, the Discovery channels, all doctor’s programs on TV and nature.

My older niece got her first camera when she was in Kindergarten. It was a Polaroid. She kept on getting upgrades often, until she got a video camera, taped it to a remote control car, turned the camera on and off it went to record. We’re hoping she gets an engineering or a science related education. She still has a couple of years to think about it.

What are your kids into? What are you doing to keep them interested in STEM subjects?


One way to keep your kids interested in STEM subjects is by giving them games related in the STEM subjects they like. To find STEM related games, go into your favorite toy store web site. Look in the learning category and then in science and discovery. Then, it’s probably going to be divided into specific science categories. It may also have an option to select by gender but I don’t think it’s necessary to use this selection by gender with science “toys”.

Here are MY PICKS of toys that may get your kids interested in science at an early age or encourage them to pursue a science related career, if they’re already interested in science.





Babies & Toddlers

Blocks, Shape Sorters, Stacking Shapes, Farm Animals, Counting/Number Games



Mazes, Puzzles, Towers, Legos, Counting/Number Games


4 to 10

Big Bucket of Dinosaurs

Nature, Physics, Chemistry, Air and Water

5 to 9

Little Labs: Stepping into Science


5 and up

The Young Scientists Set #2: Weather Station – Solids, Liquids, Gases – Volcano


7 and up

Planet Quest


8 and up

Dinoworks: Cast & Paint – 19″ Tyrannosaurus Rex Casting Kit

Anatomy & Biology

8 and up

Edu Science Human Body Learning Game with Bonus Stethoscope

Bug Science

8 and up

Backyard Safari Night & Day Bug Habitat

Chemistry & Physics

8 and up

Edu Science Junior Scientist Kit


8 and up

Edu Science Quick-Switch Microscope (comes in different colors)


10 and up

Electronic Playground and Learning Center

Can you share with us how you got interested in science, technology, engineering or math or some of the related things you did as a kid?

STEM Events to look Forward to BEFORE the end of the year

November 7, 2008

It might be hard to believe, but we are now half way through autumn and well on our way to another wonderful Rochester winter. While there are many things to look forward to in 2009, there are also many STEM events taking place in our area before the coming of the new year.

Click on the calendar above to find more information on the RAC-CEMS website

Click on the calendar above to find more information on the RAC-CEMS website

Below are some highlights:

  • A General Astronomy Meeting will be held at RIT tonight at 7:30pm
  • The Elementary Science Program (ESP) will hold 3 free PD workshops on various topics for specific grade levels (2nd, 3rd, and 4th)
  • The Finger Lakes Institute will be hosting a number of community-based science presentations including a special three day event about the Love Canal neighborhood.
  • Numerous grant and award applications are due for 2009 awards.
  • And, on clear Saturday nights, the telescopes at the RMSC Planetarium will be in operation by the friendly members of Rochester Academy of Science (call ahead to double check).

More details on all of the above events can be found on the RAC-CEMS calendar at:

If you know of an event that is not on our calendar, please let us know so we can add it to our listing.

RAC-CEMS Collaboration Event is a Huge Success

October 9, 2008
Sara Silverstone, RAC-CEMS' Executive Director makes a lava lamp. Picture c/o Ed Darling

Sara Silverstone, RAC-CEMS' Associate Director makes a lava lamp. Picture c/o Ed Darling

The Center for Excellence in Math and Science would like to thank everyone who participated in the 2008 Collaboration Event. Workshops ran throughout two days, and the feedback has been terrific.

We are in the process of updating the Conference webpage at

Several workshop presentations are posted on the site for you to refer back to. Also posted is a photo album and a list of Speaker Biographies. More will be added in the coming days, so be sure to check back often.

What was the high point of your conference experience? Was there a spark that was ignited, a question that was finally answered, or maybe a connection with a local community member that made your day? Write us a comment to let us know.

Welcome back to the STEM Blog

September 15, 2008


The STEM Blog officially resumes today! The past months have been busy for everyone, and we want to know what you have been up to.  Let us know about any STEM-related summer activities you attended so we can spread the word about the opportunities abounding in our area.  Your responses will serve as a springboard for upcoming blog entries. 


As many of you know, the RAC-CEMS sponsored six STEM Teaching Institutes this summer.  The feedback has been positive from both site administrators, and attending teachers. The professional development will continue into the fall with follow-up sessions.


Currently, the Center has been busy preparing for the Second Annual Educator’s Collaboration Event.  We are excited to present a diverse and engaging roster that is sure to energize your curriculum. Please click on the link below for more information about this quickly approaching event.

2008 Collaboration Event

We are looking forward to another year of Excellence in our community!


New Science Teacher Academy Opportunity

April 21, 2008

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) invites your application for its New Science Teacher Academy.  Cofounded by the Amgen Foundation, this professional development initiative is intended to help promote quality science teaching, enhance teacher confidence and classroom excellence, and improve teacher content knowledge.

Fellows receive a comprehensive award that includes:
*NSTA membership and its benefits
*An opportunity to participate in web-based professional development activities
*Unlimited use of resources
*An opportunity to participate in e-mentoring with an experienced teacher in the same science discipline and grade level
*Accommodations and coverage of airfare, food and registration fees to attend the NSTA national conference
*An opportunity to participate in specialized conference pathways and in a Research Dissemination Conferenceor a Professional Development Institute.

To be eligible, applicants must be residents of one of the 50 states or four U.S. jurisdictions, entering their second or third year of teaching, and working a schedule with 51% of their classes in middle or high school science.

Applications are due May 30,2008. For more information, visit the NSTA Academy website!

NYC World Science Festival

April 12, 2008

A Science Event for the Masses will be held in New York City from May 28 to June 1.  Starting on May 28 there will be a science street fair on the NYU campus, followed by events all over the city, including at Columbia, the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art.  The schedule includes a closed World Science Summit and then numerous events, such as discussions of parallel universes, memory (based on The Bourne Identity), and more family-centered activites such as magicians and a discussion from Disney Imagineers.

Visit the World Science Festival website for a complete schedule and ticket information!

STEM Summer Teaching Institutes

March 25, 2008

The Center for Excellence in Math and Science is pleased to sponsor six high-quality professional development Institutes for K-12 teachers.  Each Institute will be led by regional college faculty in a challenging one or two-week session.  Institutes will be comprised of classroom sessions and may include lab or field experiences, followed by a variety of interactions with instructors and colleagues during the school year. 

Courses include Inquiry in Earth Science (Gr. 6-8), Mathematics, Science, and Technology (Gr. 5-8), Biotechnology (Gr. 7-12), Finger Lakes GIT Ahead (Gr. 6-12), Exploring Algebraic Patterns and Relationships through the use of Videocases (Gr. 5-12), and Inquiry-Based, Interdisciplinary Mathematics, Science, Technology, and Literacy (Gr. K-6).


Download the STEM Institutes Brochure here, or visit the RACCEMS website for full course descriptions and information for how to register!