My favorite piece of merchandise on the Beauty and the Bolt site is a 2020 calendar called, “Princesses with Power Tools.” The calendar features 12 inspiring women who are involved in STEM careers, creatively and colorfully photographed as princesses. Unfortunately, the site states that it is sold out. I sent an e-mail to find out if it will become available again, and will update this post if I learn any more details.
Whether you call it STEM, STEAM, or STREAM, engineering is part of each of those acronyms. In an incredible leap that still surprises me, I found myself teaching Principle of Engineering to students in 8th-10th grades this year. (I taught elementary school for 27 years before this, for those of you new to the blog.)
After nearly falling asleep reading the course curriculum, I started to hunt for ideas. There is no textbook; this is all project-based learning. And just because the subject was new to me didn’t mean that I had to read from boring PowerPoints all year.
During my quest for ideas I discovered a UK site for STEM Learning. Even more helpful for my specific interests, is the “Year of Engineering” portion of the site, which offers an incredible number of free resources for all grade levels.
Of course, I immediately dove into the secondary resources. From the initial page, you can narrow down your engineering interest to a particular subject by clicking on a “Choose Your Inspiration” button – which perfectly describes the effect the enormous number of ideas had on me. My favorite rabbit hole to leap into is the “Engineering in Design and Technology” one, which offers subcategories like “Sports Engineering” and “Humanitarian Engineering.”
You will need to register for a free account if you are interested in downloading any of the lesson plans or activities on the site. Just give yourself plenty of time to explore each time you visit…
This is a sweet video from FableVision that tells the story of two friends who choose different career paths based on their personalities rather than what culture dictates they “should do.” The message that you can be happy and successful in more than one way is one that I hope that I communicate to my own students and child.
The mission at DreamWakers.org is to connect students in 4th-12th grades who attend high-risk schools with professionals from various industries through video conferencing. In this way, low-income students can learn about career opportunities they might never conceive due to lack of exposure. They can also speak with role models who give practical advice on how to achieve their goals. You can learn more about applying for a “flashchat” through DreamWakers here.
DreamWakers recently made one of their popular resources available to all educators. Designed in collaboration with The Institute of Play, DreamBingo reinforces themes that DreamWakers identified as the “life skills” needed to navigate the challenges of pursuing desired careers. (Some examples are: learn to network, stay organized, and be an informed citizen.) After going over the glossary of these “DreamThemes,” a teacher can then use the Google Slides presentation included in the free materials to lead student pairs through playing Bingo as they try to identify the skills shown in video clips during the presentation. Students respond on printable Score Cards after each round of the game, giving them a chance to reflect on how the themes are used by the speakers as well as how they can connect them to their own lives and those of their peers.
DreamBingo can be a a great way to engage and inspire your students. By highlighting the “DreamThemes” referred to by these diverse role models, teachers can bring relevance to the classroom and open up the minds of their students to new possibilities.
About three years ago, we tried out a tool called, “Flipgrid” for a project that my students were doing for Genius Hour. We were using a trial version and I decided against a paid subscription and I didn’t think I was ready to invest in that at the time. However, I am seeing a lot of features that make Flipgrid a potentially exciting classroom tool. Basically, Flipgrid allows you to create a topic, and other people can add videos to respond to the topic. All of the video responses are collected on one page, which makes it easy to access them. This means that people can reply asynchronously, (as opposed to a Skype interview, for example) which allows for participants from all over the world to add videos when it is convenient in their time zones. For global learning, this can be an invaluable tool.
Recently, Flipgrid started offering a free account. Although it obviously offers less features (you are limited to one grid instead of unlimited, for example), it is still something worth trying. One grid still allows unlimited topics. Another way that you can experience Flipgrid for free is to participate in its “Explorer Series.” In the first edition of this series last October, Flipgrid offered weekly videos from an Antarctic marine biologist along with questions to which students could respond. Flipgrid just launched the second edition, which will be two weeks of posts from Mike Billington of the University of Minnesota Raptor Center. The first topic is, “What is a common bird in your community? What can you do to support their environment?” Mike’s first video shows him with a live bald eagle, a site many students don’t get the chance to see. It would be interesting to connect this experience with Beauty and the Beak, and certainly a great way to make the last few weeks of school engaging and educational.
Thought of using this game in a professional setting with colleagues (including our school’s principal).
I’m not going to elaborate on the usual context of, “Never Have I Ever.” Suffice it to say that when my friend, Angelique Lackey (@lackeyangie), suggested we play it during our next Professional Learning Community discussion, I had a difficult time fitting my head around including this activity into what I have always defined as a “meeting.”
Angelique’s re-mix of the game did involve red Solo cups – but they contained gummy bears. Her directions were simple: we would each share a personal professional development goal that we haven’t achieved yet, and anyone who had already accomplished it would eat a gummy bear.
I’m not sure if it was the presence of gummy bears or the absence of other refreshments that made this Never Have I Ever game experience more productive than my past ones.
By playing the game, a few of us vocalized goals that we had never shared with our colleagues. For me, this made my own goals more resolute. It also helped me to learn more about the other staff members. In addition, I ended up adding some of their ideas to my ever-growing list of goals.
Another interesting by-product of this activity was discovering people who were eager to help us to achieve our goals. For example, I mentioned that I had never taught a college class. My principal instantly invited me to substitute for him one evening teaching undergrads. And, just like that, a goal that has percolated in my head for more than a few years, is on the road to being accomplished.
To recreate the “Never Have I Ever” Professional Goal-Setting Experience™, I would recommend that you do it in a small group of no more than 8 people who have already developed relationships that support taking risks. Prepare the group in advance so they can think about what they want to share.
And don’t forget the gummy bears.*
*According to Mrs. Lackey, the gummy bears should be organic. If there is accidental (or intentional) ingestion of artificially colored gummy bears during this activity, we cannot be held responsible for any inappropriate behavior that occurs as a direct or indirect result of playing the Never Have I Ever Professional Goal-Setting Experience™.
**Regardless of gummy bear ingestion, we cannot be heldresponsible for any inappropriate behavior that occurs as a direct or indirect result of playing the Never Have I Ever Professional Goal-Setting Experience™.
***We haven’t really trademarked the Never Have I Ever Professional Goal-Setting Experience™. I just figured out how to access special characters in my blog and thought it would be fun to add the ™.
A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season. I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December. These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child. For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page.
For this post I am going to recommend two books. One is fiction and the other is not. Both have amazing illustrations. Both champion scientific discovery. And both feature strong females who are curious, persistent, and determined to pursue their interests despite costs and sacrifices.
I saw a comment about one of these books where the writer said, “If I had a daughter, I would give her this book.” That’s fine – but there’s no reason a son shouldn’t receive either of these as a gift. Yes, we need to increase the number of women in scientific fields. But that doesn’t mean that we need to exclude males from them. And, if our belief is that stereotypes should be eradicated, won’t this be helped even more by young men learning about inspiring females and males?
Ada Twist, Scientistis a delightful book by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts about a young girl who exasperates and amazes the adults in her life with her quests to find the right answer. This picture book is one that I reviewed a few months ago here, and part of a series of brilliant stories about children who refuse to allow life to just happen to them.
Women in Science, written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky, has caught my eye on so many “Best Of…” lists that I finally had to order it. It says quite a bit about my education (and my memory) that I only recognize the names of 4 of the 50 female scientists described in this book. To be read independently, this book would be best for ages 8 and up. As a read-aloud, however, I don’t see any reason that parents or teachers couldn’t start earlier – maybe choosing one scientist a day to study. The graphics, colors, and font of this book separate it from the stodgy biographies that would immediately elicit yawns, and Ignotofsky has done a wonderful job of succinctly describing each scientists contributions in laymen’s terms.
With the upcoming Hidden Figures film and books like these, women in STEM careers are finally receiving real recognition. None of this negates the amazing feats of men in these fields. Instead, we are getting a richer picture of our history and more motivation to play significant roles in the future.