Monthly Archives: April 2014

District goes all out with STEM, hands-on learning

title1adminTitle1admin.com  has written an article about our own project-based STEM units, and they’ve  given us permission to post a link to the pdf of the article about the STEM units here:
http://www.wusd.us/users/bruce.goode/Docs/WhiteriverUnifiedSD_4.24.14.pdf

Below is the text from the article:

Key points:

  • Support staff with lessons, modeling, tech help
  • Seek out ways for students to apply STEM knowledge
  • Expose students to technology, difficulty levels of CCSS tests

District goes all out with STEM, hands-on learning

Second-graders map out a plan for a new playground that limits wind and water erosion. Eighth-graders apply Newton’s laws of motion to their roller coaster designs.

These units are part of Whiteriver (Ariz.) Unified School District’sTech Ready Grant that funds work at four of the district’s five schools. The grant dollars were awarded by the state through School Improvement Grant rollover funds.

Whiteriver USD is a public school district located on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. All its schools receive Title I funds, and nearly 100 percent of students are Apache and qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

The grant pays for four curriculum developers and four tech integration coaches, said Bruce Goode, WUSD’s tech integration coordinator. The curriculum developers write units that emphasize science, technology, engineering and math, model lessons in classrooms, and support teachers’ use of the units. The coaches help students and teachers learn to use the one-to-one mobile devices the grant helps fund. The grant also supports overall infrastructure upgrades for Common Core State Standards assessments.

Project-based learning

The district’s K-12 STEM units use project-based learning and also integrate reading and writing. The units include interactive digital test items that match the format, difficulty level, and technology skills needed for CCSS-aligned assessments.

The web-based units include a teacher’s guide and take students step-by-step through content with essential questions, videos to build background knowledge, vocabulary games, experiments and simulations, and pre- and post-assessments.

“We weave all this into a project where they are actually getting out of the classroom,” Goode said. “They’re engineering or making something in the process.”

Goode and Susan Rodriguez, one of the district’s curriculum developers, shared some tips with Title1Admin® about creating and implementing STEM units that emphasize project-based learning.

  • Make test prep fun. Ultimately, the district’s underlying goal is to prepare students for the CCSS assessments, Rodriguez said. However, there’s no reason to rely on traditional test prep that can squelch students’ love for learning, they said. “Open the doors for teachers and students to be able to dream and think outside the box,” she said. Many teachers are hungry for time to teach science more thoroughly using a project-based, multi-disciplinary approach, she added.
  • Ramp up teachers’ interest. Before the grant launched, the district hosted a half-day tech expo at each school. Teachers selected from various mini tech classes. Later, an all-day training gave details about the grant, the STEM units, and the tech devices and how to use those effectively for instruction. An online summer class was also offered.
  • Use readily available resources. Start with resources that are already in your classrooms and community. For example, students read a story in their basal reader about a school that started a compost pile, and they wanted to do the same, Rodriguez said. A local farm taught students how to build and use a compost pile for their garden.

Related Story:

Support teachers as they become STEM-savvy

As part of a technology grant from the Arizona Department of Education, Whiteriver Unified School District is creating K-12 units that integrate science, technology, engineering and math along with reading and writing. The units, which are web-based, use a project-based learning approach and also prepare students with the technology skills they’ll need and test items they’ll see on assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards.

When designing such units, be realistic about time, said Susan Rodriguez, a STEM curriculum developer for WUSD. For example, she works to design units that front load the most important content. “If the teacher only taught the first section, the students would know the content to mastery,” Rodriguez explained. “The rest of the unit is extension and delving deeper.”

Also make sure you provide ample supports for teachers, including training, and modeling of lessons.

Provide training for any technology that students and teachers will use as part of the units, suggested Rodriguez and Bruce Goode, the district’s tech integration coordinator.

As you test out units and roll out related technology, gather feedback and use that information to improve the resources and supports you’re providing for students and staff, they added.

Tricia Offutt covers family and community engagement and other Title I issues for LRP Publications.

April 23, 2014

Copyright 2014© LRP Publications     All Rights Reserved

 

What can Technology do to Empower our Students?

Watch this eight minute TED talk  about how young learners are using digital tools to change the world and what schools need to do to empower students.  The takeaway quote from Scott McLeod is this:

“We have to give them something meaningful to work on.  Give them powerful devices and access.  Get out of their way, and let them be amazing.”

Gearing Up for Innovation Nation

gears

The district-wide Innovation Nation STEM festival  is only one month away and we’re starting to gear up.

You’ll be hearing more and more about the Innovation Nation as it gets closer.

I’ve got some great news to share with you about the events taking place on May 14th.

  • Currently we have fifteen (15) outside presenters confirmed with a half-dozen others tentatively confirmed.  See the poster below to see some of the people coming.  We will also have 15 WUSD interactive student presentations.
  • Cradleboard Elementary has donated STEM-related prizes to be used for student prizes during Innovation Nation.  Thank-you Mr. Tom Shafer.
  • The WMAT Education Department JOM program has come through with 100 Papa John’s Pizzas for the winners of the Innovation Nation Contest held at each school.
  • The John Hopkins NARCH Youth fund has come through with $900 in student incentives which we plan to use to purchase:
    • $20 Walmart Gift Cards for the teachers whose classes win the school contest and participate in Innovation Nation.  To be used for classroom supplies
    • STEM-related prizes for students to award the winners of the two engineering/math challenge contests that we hold during the Innovation Nation Event.
    • STEM-related raffle prizes to be raffled off every thirty minutes starting at 2:30.  All these prizes are geared towards children.

It would be great if we can encourage as many students to be there as possible.  We’ve been blessed with lots of student incentives and we would love to have lots of student participation.

Here’s what the tentative schedule will look like on May 14th.

schedule

 

STEM poster3

 

 

STEM After-School Enrichment Clubs

After-school clubs are not new in our district.  Many schools around the district offer robotics, foreign language (including ASL), cultural, and religious clubs.  Even more offer after-school tutoring.  But what about STEM?

What is a STEM Club?
A STEM Club is a gathering of students that meets regularly in an informal environment to work on inquiry-based Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) related activities.

 Benefits of a STEM Club

STEM clubs may have the following benefits:

  • Providing opportunity for meaningful STEM learning and for students to engage in science, technology, engineering and math in multiple ways and in a supportive and fun environment.
  • Building their knowledge and application (i.e., behavior change) of STEM content and processes.
  • Honing their ability to collaborate with and learn from other students and from STEM professionals.
  • Building their interest in academic success and higher education.

 

Resources

Maybe you have wanted to start a STEM Club, but weren’t sure how to do it.  There are many resources available for you.

sfaz

Science Foundation Arizona has created a STEM Club Guide, with everything you need.  They offer a STEM Club Conference in June.  They have ongoing panels and forums, where educators from across the state can “meet up” to pose questions and seek answers from others.  Registration is open right now for the 2nd Annual STEM Clubs Conference this June.

 

STEM Club conference highlights 2

 

At the conference, you will have the opportunity to:

STEM Club conference highlights

In addition, all schools who attend will have the opportunity to apply for STEM Club seed funding provided you agree to (1) start/expand a STEM Club in August, (2) use the SFAz STEM Club model and guidelines, (3) provide input into our ongoing assessment of STEM Clubs during the 2014-2015 school year, and (4) acknowledge SFAz’s support of your STEM Club on your school’s website. Additional information on this opportunity will be provided at the conference.

Each school may send up to 2 participants, using the following link to register each participant: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/7DS6T8G. PLEASE REGISTER EACH PARTICIPANT SEPARATELY.

sfaz stem network

 

If your school wants to offer After-School Enrichment STEM Club, consider attending the conference this summer.

For more information on this event, please contact Stephaine Frimer at sfrimer@sfaz.org.  For more information on STEM Club at Cradleboard Elementary, please contact Susan Rodriguez at srodriguez@wusd.us.

Research shows that after-school enrichment programs are effective in stimulating interest in STEM-related careers, plus so much more.  But don’t take my word for it.  Read these letters from parents of STEM Club students.

I have noticed that my daughter became more brighter and  more patient after she joined STEM Club.  I have also noticed that she began reading more on her own and asking for books.  She also started keeping a journal of her own. She writes in it daily.  She

I am so proud of these kids.  Even when the project didn’t work as planned, they kept smiles on their faces, shoulders erect, and went right back to work, trying to find the solution.  It would have been so easy for them to have gotten upset or slumped their shoulders.  Especially, in front of all their peers.  My hope is that they can take that same mentality to the real world and keep smiling in the face of adversity.  Keep their shoulders erect and get right back in there.

It’s not only knowledge for a career, but knowledge for life.

 

No Child Left Inside

All across the district, teachers and students are ramping up for the AIMS test.  Whereas most students take the Reading, Math, and Writing portions, 4th graders also take the Science portion. Daily, 4th grade teachers must make a decision to cut into Reading and Math instruction in order to teach Science standards. Unless they integrate.

Integration is the concept of teaching more than one subject in a single lesson/unit. For instance, a teacher may have students measure water in a bowl before placing it outside in the sun. Then, hours later, the students measure the water remaining the bowl. Not only is the teacher covering the Science concept of evaporation, but they are also using Math concepts of measuring and using appropriate tools.

Integration is more than the sum of the parts.

Integration shows the students that we don’t move from Reading modules to Math modules in our everyday lives. When we are at the grocery store, we read labels and compare prices in the same minute. STEM is the integration of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math in Project-Based Learning units. Not only do the students learn the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, but also English-Language Arts standards. Federal mandate “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) put pressure on teachers to only teach Reading and Math. NCLB was not re-authorized and teachers are free again to teach other content areas, such as Science, Social Studies, Art, and Engineering. Teachers are free to take their kids outside again, to learn about nature……in nature.

Last week, Cradleboard fourth graders were able to attend Science Camp at Retreat at Tontozona near Payson. The students were bussed in from Whiteriver on Wednesday morning and returned to the reservation on Friday afternoon. In the three days at camp, the students attended 8 modules with a culminating presentation. The modules were carefully selected to cover 68% of what would be tested on the Science portion of AIMS.

The modules included:
1.Changes in Environments: Students went on a hike to look for evidence of natural events (floods, wildfires) and their effects on the environment. (AZ 3.1.1)

campa

◾The hike led to an area affected by wildfire some years ago. Mrs. Rodriguez explained that fire can be used in beneficial ways to help a forest as well. The students diagrammed the forest and noted that all was not dead. In fact, many trees were sprouting again.
2.Diversity, Adaptations, and Behavior: Students took a nature walk and looked for animals with adaptations such as camouflage and mimicry. (AZ 4.4.1)

campb

◾This hike led students to a tree who’s roots had been exposed due to years of flooding. The roots had developed bark to protect the tree.
◾Students were instructed to look for hidden pictures along the hike. The pictures were tacked right onto the trees but they were “hidden” because they were camouflaged.
◾Students also learned about the mutualistic relationship between lichen fungi and lichen algae.
3.Earth’s Processes and Systems: Students did hands-on experiments outside to observe the effects of weathering and erosion. (AZ 6.2.1)

campc

◾Students went on a nature hike along a river. They found natural occurrences of rocks being weathered due to water and roots. They found evidence of erosion in the sandy banks, muddy pools, and rock slides. At each occurrence, the students sat and diagrammed in their Science Camp Journals.
◾When the students returned to the fields, they created sand towers to mimic erosion. By blowing on the sand towers, students could observe first-hand that wind erosion is a slow process, as is ice erosion. When Mrs. Rodriguez poured 3 cups of water onto the sand tower, they instantly observed that water is powerful and fast! Since most of the water was absorbed into the sand tower, Mrs. Rodriguez was able to have natural conversations about groundwater and natural springs.
4.Organisms and Environments: Students used an engineering kit to make renewable forms of energy (solar, wind, etc.). (AZ 4.3.1 and AZ 5.3.1)

campd

◾Students watched a short video clip to give them background knowledge of solar energy and how to harness it.
◾Students were taken outside the classroom to see a commercial solar oven in use. The instructor had placed pineapple upside down batter into baking dish, along with a thermometer, into the solar oven in the morning. As each class went through this module, they observed the temperature inside the oven and outside.
◾Students were then presented with the challenge to create their own solar oven with the available materials (cardboard box, foil, black construction paper, saran wrap, and tape). Although there was not enough time for the student-created solar ovens to bake cookies, a competition has been planned for Friday, April 4th. The winners will be recognized at Innovation Nation.
5.Changes in the Earth and Sky: Students took weather measurements with digital tools and graphed the results. (AZ 6.3.1)

campe

◾Students began this module with a short video to describe the difference between weather and climate. Then, they learned about typical weather patterns.
◾Students moved quickly through centers where they watched thermometers moving when placed in successive containers of hot and cold water, raced to find matching thermometers, and track current weather conditions.
◾Students ended the session with an experiment of mixing hot, blue water and cold, green water. Would the colors mix or separate? What is your hypothesis?
6.Animal Sounds: Students took a hike at night to listen for animal sounds.

campf

◾Students started their lesson in the dining hall with a talk about our five senses and how each helps us and animals. The conversation then turned to how a creature of the night might use their senses differently and which would be more important. Before heading out, the students listened to animal sounds in the dark and identified what animals made those sounds.
◾On the hike, students were instructed to leave the flashlights off and to let their eyes adjust naturally to the moonlight. Students ate wintergreen breath mints and observed sparks in their partners mouths.
◾After howling in response to several packs of coyotes, the students stargazed. Students correctly identified a number of constellations and were verified with a smartphone app.
7.Reading and Writing: Students were given nonfiction text and journal space to read and write.

camp 2

◾Students chose an area to research (renewable energy sources, electricity circuits, etc.). They relaxed by the reflection pond, reading their nonfiction texts and planning an engaging presentation. They were given a poster, markers, and time after dinner to practice their presentation.
◾The final presentations included such original ideas as a news broadcast, a song about the water cycle, and a human electric circuit, among others.
◾Although students are not tested (yet) on the Common Core standards of Speaking and Listening, the presentations were an excellent way to practice these important skills.

8.Leadership: Students engaged in several scenarios where they worked together as a team.

camph

◾Students were given the opportunity to step into leadership roles.

Although Science Camp was extremely fun, it was also educational. As in most educational programs, it’s all about the data. So, what does the data say about Science Camp? We gave our students a pre-test a few days before leaving for Science Camp. We then gave them a post-test on the Monday, immediately following their return. After three days at camp, the students averaged a 27% percent gain!

test data

We have proved that taking children outside, to learn about nature, in nature, and to integrate Reading and Writing into Science shows tremendous growth. We have left the era of No Child Left Behind. Our new slogan should be “No Child Left Inside”.