Resources from STEM Smart Workshops

The Successful STEM Resource Library includes programs and projects featured at STEM Smart workshops, as well as briefs based on research and recommendations from the National Research Council reports, Successful K-12 STEM Education and Monitoring Progress Toward Successful K-12 STEM Education.
Doppler On Wheels (DOW) is an educational and research facility funded by the National Science Foundation. DOW demonstrates how cutting edge meteorological systems are provided to educational and research projects. DOW provides mobile Doppler weather radars that explore rare, short-lived, and small-scale phenomena, focusing on severe weather including hurricanes, tornadoes, and lake-effect snows. The DOW systems include two mobile X-band Doppler on Wheels and the 6–12 beam “Rapid Scan DOW.” The systems are provided as a national facility to increase community access to mobile radar systems. The DOW mobile multiple-Doppler network has the potential to play a critical role in obtaining spatially and temporally fine-scale three-dimensional single-Doppler and multiple-Doppler vector wind fields and reflectivity fields in support of a variety of the NSF community’s scientific studies. Through this program, K–12 students can get a very hands-on experience by going inside the DOW’s mission control cabin, and operating the computers controlling the radar. Along with the DOW scientists, students have starred in television shows such as Discovery’s “Storm Chasers” and in several documentaries on National Geographic, PBS, History Channel, BBC, and NHK.
UIC College Prep High School (UICCP) opened its doors in Chicago in 2008. The school was established in partnership with the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and is one of 10 campuses of the Noble Network of Charter Schools, a highly regarded local charter school network. The school's academic focus is on mathematics and science, with a special emphasis on the health sciences. UICCP’s curriculum includes four years of mathematics and science. It also includes a unique four-year health sciences program that is being co-developed by UICCP faculty members with faculty and staff from UIC’s six health sciences colleges—Applied Health Sciences, Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Public Health—as well as UIC’s Jane Addams College of Social Work. UICCP’s location within the Illinois Medical District enables the high school’s students to have regular interaction with UIC personnel, programs, and facilities, especially with the faculty, staff, and health professionals who work at the University of Illinois Medical Center. An in-school health clinic, which is located on UICCP’s ground floor and is operated by the UIC personnel, provides another, regular opportunity for the high school’s students and staff to interact with health care professionals. The school has quickly emerged as one of the city’s leading high schools, with 2011 ACT scores that were the highest in the city among all non-selective-enrollment schools. Ninety-five percent of the school's seniors this year have been accepted to a four-year university. UIC College Prep is one of 11 campuses of the Noble Network of Charter Schools, though the only one with a close partnership with a major university.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an instructional framework to guide the development of curricula that enable all learners to be successful. Drawing on research in neuroscience and the learning sciences, UDL provides a set of principles and guidelines that enable consideration of how learners vary and support instructional design to address that variability. Just as universally designed buildings provide options that accommodate a wide array of visitors, curricula designed using the UDL framework offer options that enable learners with varying needs and preferences to access and engage with learning materials.
The goal of Urban Advantage (UA) is to improve students’ understanding of scientific knowledge and inquiry through collaborations between public school systems and informal science education institutions, such as museums, gardens, zoos, and science centers. UA designs and shapes learning experiences to align with the science standards and assessments in school systems. In addition, both students and teachers are provided opportunities to engage in authentic science—conducting investigations in which they pose scientifically oriented questions, prioritize evidence, and develop logical explanations—a prerequisite to understanding science
The state-led Common Core State Standards Initiative represents the leading wave of a sea change in public education aimed at putting United States education and students on par with those of leading countries—intensifying educational standards, improving coherence among the state education systems, improving instruction, and developing and deploying new approaches to curriculum and in-class and summative assessment. Educators across the country are discovering that the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM) represent major changes from “business as usual”: fundamental changes in depth of content, as well as earlier introduction of major blocks of content, compared to previous state standards. The need for sustained coherent professional development to support CCSSM implementation is widely acknowledged.
Computational thinking practices are critical to enable next-generation advances in all STEM disciplines. Yet, while STEM disciplines ubiquitously require core competencies, almost none do so in computing. The NSF Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate supported the College Board in the development of a new Advanced Placement course appropriate for all STEM students: CS Principles. The curriculum targets students’ development of computational thinking skills by focusing on underlying principles of computation, including problem solving, abstraction, algorithms, data and knowledge creation, and programming. During 2010–2011, CS courses were piloted at five universities. The implementation of a pilot, with more than 1000 students, at UC San Diego utilized Peer Instruction—a best-practice pedagogy whereby passive lecture is largely replaced by an active learning environment driven by key conceptual questions. In the classroom, it involves a three-part process: (1) students attempt to answer a question individually (with a clicker); (2) in small groups, students practice explanation skills and hear what others thought about and how they analyzed the question; and (3) students vote on an answer and a class-wide discussion follows. The benefit of Peer Instruction for CS Principles is that it converts instructional time into time where students actively practice and get feedback on their computational thinking practices, not simply on their ability to get a computer to do something. It is the development of these deep understandings of how computers work that will serve students in their future careers, regardless of the new software package or technology du jour.
Three projects based out of Indiana University—Spark to Flame, Assessment of Multinational Interest in STEM, and Undergraduate Scientists: Measuring the Outcomes of Research Experiences—are trying to gain a deeper understanding on the experiences that generate and maintain interest in STEM across the K–20 spectrum and in both formal and informal settings.
Perhaps the greatest challenge required by <em>The Next Generation Science Standards is the creation of coherence—coherence in order to develop deeper learning from grade to grade, and coherence in the support systems of curriculum, assessment, and professional development. To help students develop scientifically sound ideas and practices, curricula need to support deep restructuring of their knowledge. This requires that the core ideas of science are addressed with coherence from one grade to the next. Moreover, it requires alignment among curriculum, assessment, and professional development.
Washington State LASER is a public-private partnership using a collaborative model for catalyzing and sustaining research-based inquiry for grades K–12 at the school, district, region, and state levels. Key elements of support include ongoing professional development, effective program and student assessment, a network of science materials centers, and the development of strong administrative and community supports. Washington State LASER is an “opt in” program. Based on a distributed leadership model, the day-to-day stewardship of the partnership is provided by Battelle and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (a U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory) and Pacific Science Center. Regional leadership is provided by a network of nine Alliances led by business, Education Service Districts, and research organizations. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction is represented on the Leadership Team for Washington State LASER. This collaborative was launched in January 1999 through a National Science Foundation Implementation and Dissemination Center grant to the National Science Resources Center, which was established by the Smithsonian and the National Academies. The grant established eight regional sites around the United States. Washington State was one of those regional sites chosen to implement this innovative model of science education reform.
The West Philly EVX Team includes students from the West Philadelphia High School Auto Academy and The Sustainability Workshop, both in Philadelphia, Pa. The West Philly Hybrid X Team has been building and competing with alternative fuel vehicles for the past 13 years. The car on display is the EVX GT, a hybrid sports car that the team built for the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE competition. In 2011, the team and the GT won Green Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International in New York. This spring the team won the Conrad Foundation’s Spirit of Innovation Awards, which challenges teams of high school students to create innovative products using science, technology, and entrepreneurship to solve 21st century, real-world problems. The team presented its work on their newest project, the Electric Very Light Car. On September 6, the EVX Team and its founder, Simon Hauger, moved to The Sustainability Workshop, a pilot program for 30 public high school seniors. The Workshop takes the core elements of EVX—real projects, hands-on learning, and close collaboration among teachers and students—and places them at the center of the school day. The Workshop has partnered with the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster (GPIC), the School District of Philadelphia, and Drexel University to provide a rigorous, challenging, and engaging educational experience for the students. By combining classroom work with real-world projects, Workshop students will be prepared not only for post-secondary education, but to take their places in the emerging green economy.