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!

 


Summertime STEM: Summer Camps

June 9, 2014

Summer Vacation is right around the corner!

Summer vacation is right around the corner!  Our region is filled with opportunities to engage in STEM learning over the summer.  Our Summertime STEM Series of blogs is going to look at a wide range of activities, for kids of all ages and abilities.

In this first installment, we’re going to focus on Summer Camps. Summer Camps are a great way to get immersed in a specific theme or subject. They can range from a couple of days to several weeks, and from an hour or two a day to full day programs, with residential camps an option as well.  Chances are, whatever you are looking for, there is a camp for that!  Summer camp is a summer highlight for many families, so take a look now to see if there’s something that appeals to you.  If you haven’t already, check out our School Break Camps page for a listing of many different kinds of camps in our area.  We’ve tried lot list as many camps in our area that we could find, in a variety of age and price ranges.

Do you have information on a STEM camp that you don’t see listed?  Please share with us and we’d be happy to add it to our listing.

Summer camps are a great way to get activities in without having to do all the planning yourself.  Registrations are well underway, so sign up soon if you are interested.


Dr. Silverstone Goes To Washington

May 28, 2014

Bill Nye at USA Science and Engineering festival

This spring, I have had the privilege of attending two major STEM events in Washington, DC: The US News STEM Solutions National Leadership Conference and the USA Science and Engineering Festival.

The first conference was a gathering of business and education leaders. It included a session organized by STEMx, the 19-state national coalition that is sponosred by Battelle. STEMx also held a reception so that members could get to know our counterparts from other states. While there I met up with other NYS STEM Hub leaders and we discussed the possibility of holding a statewide convening here in the Finger Lakes next fall.

The second event was huge free science fair for kids of all ages. Bill Nye the Science guy was there, as was Dean Kamen, the founder of FIRST Robotics. The event was huge, covering two floors of the gigantic convention center, which stretches over four city blocks.

Sara presenting at the Biodrill Exhibit

Dr. Silverstone  presenting at the Biodrill Exhibit

Mostly I attended not to sit in on the sessions, but as an exhibitor for a small educational start-up, BioDrill. As a vendor, I got to hold a series of conversations with many attendees and spent time visiting the other exhibitors. One such exhibitor was the National Science Foundation, where I ran into some old friends.

hands on exhibit: holding a human brain

In addition to showing off our science education kits and equipment, we gave hands-on demos on creating batteries from fruit and potatoes. It was rewarding to see the parents reveling in teaching their kids, or learning along with them, how to make a circuit. Seeing people of all ages light up with a smile at seeing as tiny little LED light being powered from fruit was a lot of fun. Several parents recalled doing this experiment (often it was the “Potato Clock” variation) and were thrilled to share it with their kids.

Some of the exhibits featured opportunities for kids and parents to experience new things for the first time together, such as holding an actual human brain.

Although it was as loud, busy and exhausting as Disney World, the Science and Engineering festival is highly recommended for parents who want to share their enthusiasm for science and engineering with their families. There was fun for all ages and it is all free. We are fortunate to have our own Imagine RIT right here in Rochester, but if you are looking for a real adventure and something very special to do in Washington DC, this is a great event.

Sara Silverstone is President of Brockport Research Institute, Vice-President of Research and Development at BioDrill Technical Solutions and Director of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub. In her spare time, she plays ice hockey.


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.


Imagine RIT this weekend!

May 1, 2014
Imagine RIT

Come explore the many hands-on demonstrations at Imagine RIT!

Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival is a campus-wide event held at the Rochester Institute of Technology that showcases the innovative and creative spirit of RIT students, faculty and staff. Visitors can experience the depth of RIT through interactive presentations, hands-on demonstrations, exhibitions, and research projects set up throughout the RIT campus. With inflatables, games and multiple performance stages with live music and entertainment, visitors of all ages will be amazed at all that Imagine RIT has to offer. In its seventh year, Imagine RIT is the kickoff to Rochester’s rich festival season.

“The festival’s mission goes beyond showcasing the thriving RIT campus. We see it as a call to national service. Innovation is one of our country’s last competitive advantages. Young Americans want to walk to the beat of their own drummer, and their desire to be different is an innate American characteristic. At RIT, we help students channel that passion in constructive ways and foster the United States’ leadership in technical innovation and creative ideas for new products and services.”
– RIT President, Bill Destler

The first Imagine RIT festival launched in 2008, drawing in more than 15,000 visitors to the RIT campus to see more than 300 interactive exhibits and displays. Now in the festival’s seventh year, Imagine RIT draws in more than 35,000 people to RIT each May to see exhibits and exciting new displays of the university’s unique talent to innovate and create. The Imagine RIT festival is a result of what happens when the right and left brain collide. With innovation and creativity being integral components of this extraordinary festival, each year the festival just seems to get bigger and better.

See the robotic s'more maker in action!

See the robotic s’more maker in action!

Hungry for innovation? The MFET Senior Design class here at RIT has created a fully automated, user interactive work-cell capable of manufacturing and assembling the delicious campfire treat known as the s’more! Consisting of robotic arms, conveyer belts, pneumatic systems, and sensors, visitors at Imagine RIT will be able to view and fully customize their s’more experience via a touch screen menu. Check out this video clip to see the robotic s’more machine in action!
Exhibitors from the MFET Senior Design team include: Josh Depot, Cory Deacon, Chung-Wei Chan, Dominic Fioretti, Patrick Adams, Scott Baxter, Nicholas Newland, Duane Beck, Erin Haier, Cody Farr, Anna Lorette, Michael Hymann, and SunWoo Ji.

The festival is held this Saturday, May 3 from 10-5.  Please visit the event page for directions and parking instructions. The festival has it’s own blog as well, if you want further updates.

John Horton is an Imagine RIT Co-op.  He graduated from RIT in May 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management. His future aspirations are to continue his education and to travel.

Imagine RIT 2


Building to Learn

March 27, 2014

At the RIT Center for MAGIC (Media, Arts, Games, Interaction and Creativity), we talk a lot about making things. Well, more correctly we make a lot of things and occasionally talk about them – we’re probably guilty of focusing more on making than on examining the how and why we do so.

A little while ago I was cleaning our house and I found a piece of homework debris my son had stuffed in a backpack. It looked like this:

My son's homework assignment

My son’s homework assignment

I was somewhat intrigued, because (a) I like to make things, (b) I was curious as to his intentions in making this, and (c) it was colorful. What I discovered was that he gets a sheet like this quite often, with three random words on it. He’s learning his letters, and his ‘job’ is to copy the word in the boxes below. The idea, one might suppose, is to spend enough time writing various letters and combinations that they become familiar and/or habit. It’s the 10,000 hours theory applied to letters.

So every day or two there’s another sheet, more words, more letters. OK. I asked him about the colors. He told me the colors are there to make it more fun and so it looks pretty. I asked him about the words and he stared at me blankly for a bit. I asked again “what do the words mean?” He knew all of the words, but had to stop and think about it – the frame he was operating in for that assignment, letters, didn’t have any context for the words. It wasn’t about words. It was about letters.

More ironically, I found a bunch of the other sheets and they are largely nonsensical as sentences. There’s clearly a program at work that randomly spits words across a page for students to copy, probably ensuring that every letter gets used so often or some such. I don’t know. What I do know is that this particular sheet, or this particular teacher, is either brilliant and subversive, or this is one a truly masterful piece of art arising from random chance.

You see, I know my son. I asked him whether he liked the letters assignment (he didn’t) and what he felt he was getting out of it (blank stare). About the same time, I caught him making letters out of Lego. “See, this side is slanted. This side is curved. This part connects these other parts.” He still struggles with the motor-dexterity of creating the letters, and probably will for a while. But he doesn’t struggle with the patterns of the letters themselves, or their meaning – he reads grade levels beyond his age. For him, thinking of letters as constructed objects with meaning was critical.

What if we learned about language not by learning a complex (and in American English somewhat arbitrary and convoluted) ruleset through memorization and practice, but by creating languages and studying patterns? We have the tools to do this at our fingertips – but we don’t.

***

Read the rest of this entry »


Pi Day is coming!

March 11, 2014
One of the tastiest ways to celebrate Pi Day

One of the tastiest ways to celebrate Pi Day!

March 14th (3/14) is also known as Pi Day, an annual celebration commemorating the mathematical constant π.  Officially recognized by the US House of Representatives in 2009, Pi Day was first celebrated on a large scale in 1988 at the San Francisco Exploratorium.  Pi is a symbol used to represent the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, which is approximately 3.14159. Pi Day is a great way to break out of the winter doldrums by having fun with math!

Fun Fact:  Did you know that Pi Day is also Albert Einstein‘s birthday?

Math has escaped the classroom!  Check out the Pi Sightings page to see Pi everywhere.

Check out all these Pi Day activities:

Parents:  There are many math activities that can be done at home, but in talking with students and parents, the favorite way to celebrate Pi Day at home is by bringing some pi(e) to the dinner table.   Chicken pot pie, shephards pie and of course, pizza pie are all great choices for a pi-themed meal.   There are even more choices to finish off your meal with, as pie is definitely a family-favorite dessert.  Check out this great list of ideas for other edible (and non-edible) ways to celebrate Pi.

Other fun ways to celebrate at home include taking a family walk, jog or bike ride for 3.14 miles.  NY Weather not cooperating?  Hop in the car for a short 3.14 mile drive.  Locally, The Rochester Museum and Science Center has special Pi Day activities from  3:14 – 6:28 pm on Friday.  If you can’t make it on Friday, they will have the same activities on Saturday and Sunday from 12-4.

Teachers:  Find grade-specific activities at Education World.  Want to include some Pi Day fun into your ELA classes?  Try writing a Pi-ku,  a math version of the traditional 5-7-5 syllabic haiku. A Pi-ku of course, follows a 3-1-4 syllabic pattern.

Fun pi t-shirt from www.zazzle.com

Fun pi t-shirt from http://www.zazzle.com

For example:

Math is fun
When
Mixed with some pie

See this fun idea along with 4 others in the HOMEROOM (US Dept. of Ed blog).

A look ahead to next year: In the year 2015, Pi Day will have special significance on 3/14/15 at 9:26:53 a.m. and p.m., with the date and time representing the first 10 digits of pi.

Need more ideas?  Visit the Pi Day website and Teach Pi website  for many more ideas and resources.