We the Geeks

We the Geeks

In the fortuitous way that things seem to often happen in my life, I spent a fabulous Saturday morning with my daughter at a free event designed to spark girls’ interest in all things STEM related, then 24 hours later stumbled across a “Women Role Models” video on We the Geeks that reinforced all of my strong feelings about this topic.

We the Geeks is a series of Google Hangouts sponsored by the White House.  The purpose is “to highlight the future of science, technology, and innovation here in the United States. “

In the latest episode, “Women Role Models,” several female guests are interviewed (you can see the guest list below), and give their insight on how to encourage more girls to pursue scientific careers. Many of the guests mention how influential their teachers and teachers were in stimulating their interest in science.  What I heard repeated several times, though, was how important the excitement of the adult mentors can be.  One guest said, “If you have an excited teacher, you’re going to be excited about it.”  Another guest advised that parents should “learn with the kids… stay excited with them.” The latter point is key because, as she pointed out, if parents show that they are intimidated by science and math, that “trickles down” to the children.

Some of the other past episodes of We the Geeks have included: “Celebrating Black History Month,” “Student Startups,” and “Don’t Be Bored, Make Something.”  I haven’t watched any of the other videos, yet, but they all look pretty intriguing.

(Here is a link to a collection of videos to encourage girls in STEM from Amy Borovoy at Edutopia.)

Guests who recently appeared on "Women Role Models" in We the Geeks series

Guests who recently appeared on “Women Role Models” in We the Geeks series

 

My daughter peers through a telescope at the sun during the Girls Inc Science Festival

My daughter peers through a telescope at the sun during the Girls Inc. Science Festival

Elements 4D

Chlorine This isn’t a new resource.  Drew Minock and Brad Waid (Congrats again, Brad, on getting on this year’s 20 to Watch List!) have mentioned the Elements 4D Cubes several times on their website as well as on their weekly show, Two Guys and Some iPads.  I thought the cubes looked pretty cool, but didn’t really see a use for them in my classroom at the time.  Also, I missed out on the Kickstarter campaign for the wooden cubes, and figured I would be out of luck unless Daqri started selling them.

The wooden Elements 4D Cubes are still not available to the general public. (I tweeted them last night, and they responded that they are planning to make them available for sale in the near future.)   And I still don’t really have a use for them in my current curriculum.  But I sense a Genius Hour project may be planned in the immediate future – because my daughter and I have been having a blast with the free paper version of the cubes for the last two days.

My daughter came home from school the other day and mentioned that they had begun studying the elements in her science class, and that she had to do a report on Chlorine.  She chuckled at the coincidence (she is a synchronized swimmer who spends a lot of time washing chlorine out of her hair), but didn’t sound too excited about the project.  We were busy that evening, but I had a fleeting memory that someone had mentioned something about the paper version of the Elements 4D Cubes, and I decided, before school the next morning, to give them a try. At 6:45 A.M., I cut out 2 cubes, glued them together, and downloaded the free app.  My daughter, who had just woken up, got a demonstration at the breakfast table.  My performance was not well-received – probably largely due to the fact that she is not a morning person.

After school, she came home and started playing with the cubes and the app. The next thing I knew, she was busy cutting out the rest of the cubes.  As I sat in our home office trying to think of a post to write, I could hear her Facetiming her friend so she could show her the app.  When that call was done, she gathered all of the cubes to bring to the office to show me all of the elements she was discovering, and the fascinating combinations that could be made. Suddenly, Chlorine is an incredibly interesting element.  My daughter had no idea that it is a gas in its natural state (as the cube clearly shows), or that it combined with Sodium to make salt. Every new discovery she made with the cubes was exciting. We took a lot of iPad screen shots. I encourage you to try it out for yourself.  Download the free iPad app, print off the free cubes (I highly recommend printing them on card stock if possible), and spend a bit of time cutting and pasting so you can give yourself hours of fun.

(For more Augmented Reality Resources, check out my page of apps and activities here.  Also, you might be interested in Daqri’s Enchantium app, which Drew Minock reviewed here.)

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Connect a Million Minds

Connect a Million Minds

Connect a Million Minds is a program that is sponsored by Time Warner Cable with the aim “to address America’s declining proficiency in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).”  The program includes some videos, a website, grants, and other initiatives. In today’s post, I want to focus mainly on a couple of sections of the website – though I encourage you to also visit the collection of videos that show how STEM is used in many careers that students may not usually associate with these subjects.

One of the features of the Connect a Million Minds website is “Connectory.”  This is a page that allows you to search for STEM activities occurring in your area.  I did a search for my zip code, and was a little disappointed.  I am aware of a few upcoming events that weren’t listed.  Obviously, this database requires entries to be submitted from the local programs, and there does not seem to be two-way communication going on everywhere.   Parents are often asking me for camps, classes, and events, and I would love to be able to use this as a one-stop resource.  This has potential, but may need more media exposure to be fully realized.

Another feature of the site is the “Campaigns” section.  Currently, they are running a “STEM in Sports” campaign, which looks like it could really be beneficial for “hooking” some students into STEM.  It includes videos from some sports celebrities, such as Victor Cruz, Magic Johnson, Ian Poulter, and Jeff Gordon.  In the videos, the men relate their specific sports to STEM. (Notice that I said, “men.”  It would be nice to find some women to include in the sports section, as well!)  The “STEM in Sports” campaign also includes some resources for Parents and Educators to download that give suggestions for fun activities highlighting STEM connections in each sport.

If you are trying to find some STEM resources for students, try taking a look at Connect a Million Minds.  You may find something new that will spark a student’s interest in STEM.

 

Your Child – the Future Headliner of “Hypothesizing with the Stars”

Lego's new mini fig star!

Lego’s new minifig star!

Many attempts to encourage girls to pursue scientific careers through toys seem to follow a line of thinking that suggests that merely producing playthings in pastel purples and pinks will make them more appealing to the female gender.  I have addressed the questionable nature of this hypothesis in a couple of other posts. (See Goldiblox, for example.)  There is still a huge gap between the number of men and women in science, but steps have been taken in the right direction, lately.

For example, Lego just unveiled its new scientist mini-fig and, I am thrilled to see that she is not dressed in a frilly pink apron.  (Although, you might be interested to read here about the other figures bundled in this collection!) 

In another Lego related story, Mary Beth Hertz relates her experiences with girls and robotics using the Lego Mindstorms Robotics Kits.  Mary noticed, as I have, that there is a disproportionate number of boys at robotics events.  I was amazed, myself, to see how few girls applied for our 4th & 5th grade Robotics Club last year.  Although I do not want to exclude the boys, I would like to see more girls turn in applications. (We do a random drawing for members from the papers that are submitted.)  I’m not planning to make the applications pink, but I think a photo of some of the girls who were members last year should definitely be prominently displayed on the brochure!

In the meantime, check out this cool Kickstarter Project for a board game called, Robot Turtles designed to teach programming to 3-8 year olds.  Yes, I said BOARD game – and, even better, the intent is for it to be played along with the parents.  You can read more about it here. (For more programming for kids ideas, you can check out this post.)

And, to top it all off, Bill Nye the Science Guy is going to be on Dancing with the Stars.  How perfect is that?

A new generation of scientists/programmers/engineers is waiting in the wings.  Let’s do what we can to make these aspiring scientists the “stars” with whom everyone wants to dance ;)

Click here for the Kickstarter page for Robot Turtles!

Click here for the Kickstarter page for Robot Turtles!

Space Fun!

I saw the above picture on It’s Okay to Be Smart, and couldn’t help smiling!  I knew I would need to share it on a Fun Friday post, and then a few other space-related resources found their way to my computer – and I had my theme for today!  If you just started back to work in a school, then you are probably in need of a few laughs – although sleep might be higher on your priority list.

The Huffington Post recently published this list of Star Wars quotes – along with philosophical interpretations.  Too bad it’s too late for me to decorate my classroom with a Star Wars theme…

These 3-D Space Cookie Cutters look awesome!

 

And then, Larry Ferlazzo posted the most recent Symphony of Science video – about Black Holes – and my life was complete. (If you haven’t seen their other videos, click here.  My favorites are, “Ode to the Brain” and “We are All Connected.”)

Scientist Paper Dolls

For this week’s Fun Friday post, I thought you might like these links to Scientist Paper Dolls, offered by Mad Art Lab.  All are free to print out, color, and “re-mix” at home :)

Albert Einstein

Jane Goodall

Ada Lovelace

Nikola Tesla

I think it would be neat for the kids to be assigned one to research – or to create some of their own!

You can find additional paper dolls and the commentary from the artists here.  However, not all, especially the commentary, is appropriate for young children, so please screen first.