Friday, July 29, 2016

Colorado STEM Forum Day 3

I might have accidently fallen asleep at 1 a.m.  Why?  Excellent question.  I was up fixing my presentations until super late and had no idea it was after midnight.  I’m an idiot.  But I woke up nervous and excited for the last day of the STEM Forum.

Here is my day in a nutshell:


  • MakerEd:  This presentation was a panel of 3 who discussed their experience with the process of MakerEd.  Great session.  Lots of good reflection of a process that works.
  • Science vs Engineering:  This was a session I hosted.  I essentially walked teachers through the difference between science and engineering, the V model of systems engineering as well as how to use it in their class.  Super pumped that so many awesome educators wanted to come to this session and learn, through my struggles and failures, about this process.  Gotta give a MAD shoutout to my husband, who helped me take this engineering process and bring it into the classroom.
  • Experimental Design for Students:  This was the final session I hosted.  I shared with teachers a method for how students can design their own experiments. Again, I was so flattered that so many not only came to my session, but engaged, stayed, asked questions and chatted with their colleagues about this process.  I feel so honored to be in a field where so many dedicated and caring teachers, administrators and trainers come together to share and learn.
  • Engineering Your World:  This session, led by Cheryl Farmer, shared an awesome engineering curriculum that seems rather turn key that can be used at the high school level.  AWESOME!  They provide teacher training and continual support. The course is very project based and touches on most fields of engineering to give students the opportunity to taste the engineering process and engineering field. They offer dual enrollment elective credit.  J This is something I would love to see at the school I teach at.  Great Program...link is HERE.
  • Build a Mini Van De Graaff Generator:  OMG!  Joseph Sencen is not only an amazing presenter, but he showed up how to make a this awesome generator, had enough supplies for everyone to make their own and even offered to ship components to people if they needed some!!!!!  I can tell that he is an incredible science teacher.  His students are soooooo very lucky to have him for chemistry.  I just wish I could take his chemistry class.  I might have enjoyed chemistry.  J  NSTA, please bring more presenters like Joseph!  He wasn’t trying to sell me anything!!!!!  He was just sharing great resources.  THANKS Joseph.  Your workshop was the highlight of my day.  Oh, and did I tell you that he helped me better understand how a Van De Graaff works?  Glass on top of belt makes it POSITIVE!!!!
FINAL TAKEAWAYS:  I am extremely excited yet cautious about what is and will be happening in STEM education.  There is a confusion about what STEM really is.  One of the panelists cautioned that if we are not careful we will have HAMSTER (humanities, arts, math, science, technology, engineering, reading). I laughed then realized this was a bit scary.  We need to have a clear idea as educators as to what STEM is and is not.

There is still a huge need for quality STEM activities and training opportunities for k-5.

AFter talking to lots of people, engineering is still making people scratch their head.

I was overjoyed to see how many administrators came to this conference.  Makes me happy to see these professionals coming to conferences like this.

Apparently lots of districts are starting to hire science educators/experts to help facilitate this process of implementing STEM/NGSS into their schools.  Super excited.  

Got to network and meet lots of awesome people.  

But now....I'm gonna get ready for food and then sleep because if you have ever been to any NSTA conference, you know that it is exhilarating AND exhausting.

Thank you NSTA for putting together an excellent STEM Forum.  Thank you for allowing me to share some of my best practices.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to attend excellent workshops and meet amazing people.  NSTA, YOU ROCK!

Colorado STEM Forum Day 2

Day 2 at the STEM Forum was exhausting and exciting.  I was able to attend some amazing workshops with lots of useful info and applications.
  • Partnerships:  NSTA had a panel of individuals share out their partnerships that they make with schools, educators, students and the community.  Though all of the panelists were AWESOME, I totally freaked and did my happy dance with the US Army Education Outreach Program (AEOP).  Not only do they have awesome competitions for students, they also had PAID internships.  LOVED THIS!  Oh….and they had summer workshops for teachers!  Yes, Teachers!  Where they get teachers into the research facilities and doing engineering and science.  LOVED THIS!!!!!!
  • FOSS Conceptual Modeling:  I chose this workshop because the title said conceptual modeling.  This made me VERY curious.  I had not heard of FOSS (Full Option Science System) until this workshop.  Sarah Micheals and Cathy O’Connor did an excellent job of showing us some very hands-on and engaging activities.  Though this was targeted for young kiddos (not high school), I loved their items and the very Claim-Evidence-Reasoning approach their material provided.  We did 3 hands-on activities that clearly excited and engage kids in science.  Good stuff!  Wishing they had a high school line of item.
  • NGSS Instruction that Makes Thinking Visible:  Kenneth Huff led a solid presentation on getting the kids to think visibly about their learning.  He had us teachers work collaboratively to identify the types of cross cutting concepts and science and engineering practices in a lesson he did with his students.  My biggest take away from this session was the face that a group of science teachers could not agree upon the system being modeled from his lesson.  It wasn’t that the lesson wasn’t fantastic, it was that there was a lack of understanding what a SYSTEM really is!  WOW!  We teachers really need some more focus and training on what a system is, in my opinion.
  • Write/Right From the Start:  This session was all about writing for the NSTA journals.  I’ve been published a few times, but not through NSTA so I super wanted to figure out their process.  Very informational.  Thank you ladies…you ROCKED this.  I so want to submit I just need to figure out which topic to focus on.  J
  • Survive the Zombie Apocalypse:  This was one of the presentations I gave and I felt so spoiled that so many people were excited to learn about this project.  THANKS for coming out!  The premise of the project is that zombies have taken over the world and the cities have to design a solar car to get out of the city FAST in order to get to safety.  Got to talk to some amazing educators.
  • Key Note Speaker: OMG!  Derek Muller, the creator of Veritasium, was the key note speaker.  Not only is this man super adorable, he is exciting, engaging, funny and brilliant.  If you are a teacher, student or just a human, you should watch the videos on his Youtube channel.  I can’t thank him enough for being so candid and fantastic.  He said that “access to information is here”.  It is the teacher’s job not to deliver information but rather to engage students through social experiences in the learning process. THANKS DEREK!  If you ever want to come to my physics class I would love that!  Oh, and he taught me that every time I exhale, I lose approximately 0.1 g of carbon.  So, I’m gonna go breathe and lose some weight.  HEHEHEHE

I spent the rest of the evening checking out downtown.  Had some awesome tacos at Machete then went to a cool bar/arcade called 1-up.  Super fun!  Denver, you’ve got a killer downtown.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Colorado STEM Forum Day 1

I woke up at 3:15 am for my 6:20 am flight to Colorado for NSTA's 5th Annual STEM Forum.  I'm not gonna lie.  I didn't sleep a lot last night (partly because of 3:15) because I was sooooo freakin' excited.  I've never gone to the STEM Forum before.  I am uber hardcore passionate about science and education and I'm pumped about presenting this week, not once but 3 sessions!  OMG!

Already, I'm so happy to be here.  I've been to the NSTA conference twice, but it was the reallllly big one.  I got to meet lots of people, but I've noticed there is a strong focus here....a laser sharp, let's figure out this STEM-thing, focus.  And I'm digging it.

First off:  Colorado, what's up with the humidity?  Stop it.  I don't like sweating.

Secondly:  Denver, I'm loving your downtown!  Already, I have consumed delicious food.  Nummy.

Third:  Let's do some science.  WOOHOO

But, let's get down to brass tacks.  Even though nothing kicked off until 1:00 today, I feel like I got a full day of learning in.

FIRST TIMER EVENT:  Because I've never been to a STEM Forum, I figured it would behoove me to attend.  So glad I did.  Gotta meet a super cool chick from Louisiana, talk to some excited elementary teachers, kick it with my partner in crime for the week, and listened to fun navigational facts about the conference.  Oh, and my table group won #STEMforum t-shirts because I tweeted our pic super fast.  WOOT!  Great start.  Have SWAG.

STUDENT PANEL DISCUSSION:  I wasn't exactly sure what to expect with this, but I'm glad I went.  These young people opened themselves up and shared their STEM experience with us teachers.  Each of them were so well spoken and engaging, it gave me tremendous hope for our future.  My big takeaway was the fact that one of the panelists mentioned the importance of communication.  She felt that being able to explain her research and findings was something that was critical and challenging.  Wondering if I'm having my students communicate enough and in different formats?

WELCOME RECEPTION:  I'm not gonna lie...I love freebies.  In fact, I think in the job description for teachers it literally says, "must love freebies".  Anywho, I knew I had to fly threw the exhibits because I wouldn't have a chance on Thursday or Friday.  Glad I did.  Great chats, cool gadgets, lots of sick awesome freebies and the pretzel sticks were AWESOME!  Thanks NSTA and Google for the snacks.  Got myself some freebies as well as fantastic resources to share with my colleagues.  Super glad I found NIBIB (national institute of biomedical imaging and bioengineering), BEST Robotics, and the Office of Naval Research.  The ONR has a shore duty officer come to your science classroom and provide an amazing presentation from a list of awesome STEM topics! EPIC!  Thanks for your service to our country and our kids!

STEM LEADERS' PANEL:  This was the highlight of my day.  Man, what an amazing team of phenomenal people on this panel.  Their analysis and interpretation of STEM was thought provoking and their answers to a wide arrange of questions left my mind blown.  Elizabeth Parry, I wish I could take you back to my district and have you speak to everyone for hours.  This woman was so passionate and truly understands what STEM is about.  She stressed the need for rigorous and relevant instruction that involves problem solving.  Bob Melton nailed it when he said that STEM should not be projects without content.  Sally Mitchell openly discussed how she didn't even really understand what an engineer did until 5 years ago and then preached how we should be rethinking what the school day should look like.  PREACH IT SALLY!  I could go on and on about how awesome this panel was, but in truth, I was left with more questions.

  • What really is the definition of STEM?
  • What does a STEM classroom really look like?
  • How do we know if STEM works?
  • How can teachers who are not trained scientists or engineers teach STEM? 
  • Where and who will train teachers?
  • Who will hold teachers and school accountable?
  • Are credentialing and college programs adapting their curriculum to develop STEM teachers and leaders?
  • etc....
Can't thank these wonderful people enough for putting out the time to discuss this huge transition in education.

So, tomorrow I will wake up (not at 3:15 am) and report for the 8 am session:  Forming Partnerships.  I then have a full day up until I present at 3:00.  If you are a physical science or physics teacher, or heck, if you just like zombies and cool projects...come on out!  

Survive the Zombie Apocalypse
Rm 712
3:00


 I will give a quick run down as to how to the do the project, show you student work and provide all necessary resources.  Can't wait.  I love sharing what works, and this project WORKS!  WOOT!!!!!

Goodnight fellow science peeps.  I've gotta get some shut eye.