What are these teachers doing in this slide show?
It appears as if there’s a lot of attention to bottled water in this slide show, but the teachers weren’t doing taste samples. The teachers were designing insulated water bottle holders.This was the first activity of the NY ITA’s recently completed Essentials MT Training with a STEM Focus. The class was divided into teams of three. Each team was challenged to design a water bottle holder that would: keep the water cool, be comfortable to use, have little impact on the environment, have a low production cost, and have aesthetic appeal. They received three hundred play dollars. The “money” was used to purchase materials and rent tools from a “supply store” in the back of the lab. Prices were high! Some examples: corrugated cardboard was fifty cents a strip, bubble wrap was one dollar a square inch, tape was fifty cents an inch. Most teams started the project by testing the insulation value of the materials with temperature probes. After the water bottle holders were constructed the probes were used again to monitor water temperatures throughout the day. Starting and ending temperatures were recorded in Google spreadsheets.
Alternate link to slide show if the embedded version is not showing http://picasaweb.google.com/tdiener/STEMEssentials?feat=directlink
Some of the conversations generated about Project Based Learning during this activity were: What standards were addressed? What science, mathematics, engineering, and technology objectives were addressed? What higher-order thinking skills took place? What 21st century skills were used? What Essential Questions could have been used? What assessment instruments could be used? This was project-based learning to learn project-based learning, and it was a great segue into the Essentials course content.
Why the STEM Concentration?
Consider the following excerpt from a recent article in Forbes magazine…
“For every new Ph.D. in the physical sciences, according to the Aerospace Industries Association, the U.S. graduates 50 new MBAs and 18 lawyers; more than half of those with bachelor of science degrees still enter careers having nothing to do with science. The ACT testing service says only 17% of high school seniors are both interested in STEM majors and have attained math proficiency. Even among students who begin college pursuing a STEM degree, only half wind up with one. Finding new STEM teachers has become especially urgent: As of two years ago, nearly 60% of U.S. workers with STEM degrees were 45 and older.
It used to be that universities didn't particularly worry about the number of STEM grads. But that was before the days of Google and the ravenous demand for technologists. Colleges are only starting to adapt. Calculus has long been known as a "STEM killer," so many schools are trying to get away from passive lectures and make students learn interactively with computers. Engineering schools are trying to introduce jazzier real-world problems into the curriculum. The Obama administration has focused on lower levels in the educational food chain. Earlier this year the President announced $250 million in federal spending and private investment to hire thousands of math and science schoolteachers.”
Forbes Magazine, June 9, 2010, Link: http://money.cnn.com/2010/06/09/news/economy/few_science_majors.fortune/index.htm
Intel Essential’s Project Based Learning strategies are a perfect way to encourage, engage, and empower students and teachers in real-world STEM activities.
What Happened After the Water Bottle Activity?
Each day before delving into the Essentials, teams modified and improved their prototypes. Traditional course content and activities were always presented with a STEM focus. Different probes were introduced daily and considered for inclusion into unit plans.
Participants had a very busy week learning the course content, developing unit plans, participating STEM and probe activities, and learning to become a trainer, but everyone came through. The New York ITA now has 14 certified and authorized Essentials STEM MTs ready to train.
The New York is eager to hear other ITA's plans for STEM intitiatives. What's happening in your state?