Wednesday, March 28, 2007

National Math & Science Initiative

I had a chance to participate in a phone call last week regarding the National Math & Science Initiative. This is a major undertaking to improve the quality and quantity of math and science learning opportunities around the country. It is primarily funded by the ExxonMobil Foundation (with $125 million!!!) and seems likely to serve as a pool for other funders to have a larger impact together. They plan to fund proven models, starting with two Texas-based projects, one which prepares science undergraduates to teach in public schools, and one which supports high school students in taking AP classes. RFPs are currently open to replicate these models in other states/regions.

Replicating programs that have been studied is a great way to go. Replicating at local/state-levels allows those with a closer connection to the target audience to tailor their version of the program to unique local needs. Personal experience tells me that holding all youth to high expectations works, but it also can require a lot of support beyond academics, so let's all be prepared to be involved.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Reaching After-school Providers

The National Afterschool Association held their annual conference in Phoenix last week. The thousands in attendance had a wealth of science, technology, engineering, and math learning opportunities to choose from. There were 45 sessions in total, including 17 from Coalition for Science After School affiliated groups and 11 from NASA representatives. The conference organizers will be posting presentations on the site in the coming weeks in case you missed it.

Children's Science Books

Here is a useful list posted a while ago on the "blogosphere". It is a list of children's books that pertain to science (both directly and more generally).

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Teach for America targets STEM learning

I will be at the Teach for America Mathematics and Science Summit on Saturday in Washington, DC. I am going primarily as a TFA alum, but I also hope to spread the word about informal learning and the many opportunities to reach kids beyond the classroom.

I recently received email from a former student (who is now a college sophomore - way to go, Sandy!) She mentioned that she mostly remembers the part of my class where they learned chess - a set of activities I organized after we covered all of the math objectives for the year. It just goes to show that young people will remember what they enjoy and connect with. Not that the math standards were not important to her life, but chess was fun and interactive in a way that classroom math was not.

For all of the informal educators out there, TFA teachers could be a great audience for your materials. Many seek to start after-school clubs at their schools. Most are new to their communities and may not know about museums and other kid-friendly resources. Each TFA region has a local office, so you should look them up. There is also a new, well-funded math and science initiative, for those of you on the national level.

Press coverage for Minnesota program

The Science Museum of Minnesota is engaged in a number of efforts to support STEM education in its community. One program that connects high school students with younger children to learn science after school was recently featured in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Science Videos

I saw a link on BoingBoing today about free documentaries on Google video. This got me started looking for kid-friendly science videos. Finding them in all of the clutter is hard, but there are some interesting resources available for free. If you have ever done the "oobleck" activity (i.e., cornstarch and water), you may want to check out some of the demonstrations available. (The link is for a "corn starch water" search. You may want to try other search terms as well.) Several videos, including one showing here, demonstrate vibration of the solution, creating some fascinating results.

There is so much that can be learned from such a simple solution, you should use extend "oobleck" lessons as much as possible. If you are looking for good lesson plans around oobleck, there are many out there. Two of the best are in Afterschool Science PLUS (review / link) and Great Explorations in Math and Science.