Code.org and Amazon Kick Off Hour of Code: Dance Party to Introduce One Million Girls to Coding

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Amazon and Code.org partner for this year’s Hour of Code, which aims to inspire one million girls during the first week of December to try coding their own dance party

Over 1,000 Amazon employees volunteering at schools and events around the world to inspire young people to learn to code

Initiative forms part of Amazon’s Future Engineer program, a comprehensive kindergarten-to-career program that works to inspire, educate, and train 10 million children and young adults each year from underrepresented communities to pursue careers in the fast-growing field of computer science

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) and Code.org today introduced Hour of Code: Dance Party – an online gamified tutorial that aims to teach basic coding skills to more than one million young girls during the first week of December and will continue to reach millions more kids throughout 2019. To help raise awareness of the value of coding at schools around the world, over 1,000 Amazon employees are volunteering at hundreds of Hour of Code events, from San Luis Obispo, California, to Edisto Island, South Carolina, to Tokyo, Japan, and Gdansk, Poland.

Code.org’s new spin on the Hour of Code, in collaboration with the Amazon Future Engineer program, will combine coding, music, and dance to break stereotypes about coding and make learning about it accessible to everyone online.

Research shows that girls significantly outnumber boys in performing arts classes from 8th to 12th grades. By building this year’s Hour of Code around music and the arts, this year’s Hour of Code aims to attract more female students than ever to try out computer science.

“Amazon Future Engineer is designed to make computer science skills accessible and exciting to kids and young adults in underserved communities,” said Jeff Wilke, CEO of Worldwide Consumer at Amazon. “I am thrilled to see the creativity of Dance Party aimed at attracting more girls and young women to the world of coding.”

“Amazon’s support for Code.org is instrumental in our effort to engage young women in computer science,” said Hadi Partovi, founder and CEO of Code.org. “Today, computer science provides a basic foundation for all careers. Thanks to Amazon’s support, millions of students, especially young women, will be introduced to coding this year.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million computer-science-related jobs available and only 400,000 computer-science graduates with the skills to apply for those jobs. Computer science is the fastest growing profession within the Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) field, but only 8% of STEM graduates earn a computer science degree, with a tiny minority from underprivileged backgrounds.

While significant gains have been made in teaching computer science in schools, only 35 percent of high schools in the U.S. teach computer science across 24 states, according to Code.org data. In addition, Black and Hispanic students, students receiving free and reduced lunch, and students from rural areas are less likely to attend a school that provides access to this critical subject.

Amazon Future Engineer launched in November. It is a comprehensive childhood-to-career program intended to inspire, educate, and train children and young adults from underprivileged communities to pursue careers in the fast-growing field of computer science. Amazon Future Engineer aims to inspire more than 10 million kids each year to explore computer science, help over 100,000 underprivileged young people in over 2,000 high schools in lower income communities take introductory or Advanced Placement (AP) courses in computer science, and provide 100 students from underrepresented communities with four-year $10,000 scholarships as well as guaranteed internships to gain work experience. Code.org’s Hour of Code: Dance Party is a big piece of this commitment. Code.org relies on AWS services to scale its annual Hour of Code.

Continue onto BusinessWire to read the complete article.

WonderWorks Branson Providing Local Schools with In-Service STEM Educational Program

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STEM teacher showing two grade school children a nail and balloon experiment

WonderWorks, the indoor amusement park for the mind, is scheduled to open in Branson, Missouri in October 2019. They are teaming up with schools in Branson and Hollister County, to offer in-service educational opportunities.

These programs will begin the week of April 15, 2019. This is just one of many STEM activities that WonderWorks offers and focuses on using scientific methods to engage students in learning about both the principles of pressure and fingerprints.

“Since WonderWorks is under construction, we are happy to bring these great programs to the classrooms” says Janine Vaccarello, chief operating officer at WonderWorks. “These hands-on programs provide them with fun STEM lessons that will engage students and expand their understanding of the topics.”

The interactive lessons that will be taken to the local schools include:

The Principles of Pressure: 

This program will be in-service at local elementary schools. It uses the scientific method to understand how pressure works and specifically how you can lay on a full size bed of nails and not get punctured. This is a two-part demo that includes understanding how much pressure it takes a nail to puncture something. The kids will work with the teacher to develop a hypothesis, conduct an experiment using a balloon on a nail, and then repeat the experiment using a block of wood. They will use math to determine the weight that can be on the nail before the balloon pops.

Fingerprints: 

This program will be in-service at local middle schools. Using scientific method and reasoning, the interactive learning program includes having students look at their fingertips through the magnifying lens and examine the patterns on their skin. They will learn how unique fingerprints are formed, they will make a set of their own printed fingerprints, and will compare their unique pattern with common types of fingerprints.

Both sessions will give students a hands-on learning opportunity that should boast their science interests. The programs offer opportunities for interaction, using scientific methods, creating hypothesis, and evaluating the outcome.

“We are excited that WonderWorks is entering the Branson market and bringing educational programs not only within their attraction but to the schools directly,” says Brian Wilson, superintendent at Hollister Schools. “They are committed to STEM programs and are helping teachers by creating an interactive learning environment.”

WonderWorks Branson will be the company’s 6th location. WonderWorks new home was the previous location of Baldknobbers Theater located at 2835 W 76 Country Blvd. The new location will feature the attraction’s iconic exterior – a grandiose house flipped upside-down. The unique façade is part of WonderWorks’ background story. According to legend, it was once a top-secret laboratory that was lifted and flipped on its roof by an experiment gone awry. From its exterior to its interior, visitors of all ages will enjoy a family friendly, out of this world experience, which will make for some amazing memories.

The interactive indoor amusement park offers STEM-focused activities for all ages. There are over 100 hands-on activities that are focused on the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math. Some of the exhibits will include a bubble room, Professor Wonder’s adventure, interactive sandbox, illusion art gallery, and xtreme 360 bikes. For more information on WonderWorks, visit the site at: wonderworksonline.com/branson-coming-soon/.

About WonderWorks

WonderWorks, the upside-down adventure, is a science focused, indoor amusement park for the mind, that holds something unique and interesting for visitors of all ages. There are four floors of non-stop “edu-tainment,” with over 100 hands-on and interactive exhibits that serve a STEM educational purpose to challenge the mind and spark the imagination. WonderWorks has locations in Orlando, Pigeon Forge, Myrtle Beach, Panama City Beach, and Syracuse. For more information visit: wonderworksonline.com.

Karlie Kloss Reveals the Three Cs She’s Looking for in Kode With Klossy Summer Camp Applications

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Karlie Kloss posing with young diverse girls in a classroom setting

Karlie Kloss has a super hectic schedule these days.

The supermodel, 26, is currently promoting her latest gig as the new Project Runway host (the season premiere of which aired Thursday on Bravo) and gearing up to host one of the coolest summer camps for girls through her nonprofit, Kode With Klossy.

Kloss launched Kode With Klossy back in 2015 as a way to empower and inspire young women to become involved in tech. Throughout the year, the nonprofit hosts learning experiences to help girls pursue their passion — and one of the most well-known programs is the annual Kode With Klossy Summer Camp.

The organization hosts free two-week summer coding camps across the country annually for young women ages 13 to 18, to teach the fundamentals of programming and web development. The 2019 applications are officially open — and Kloss is running around the city (literally) to spread the word.

Kloss took to the streets of New York City to let everyone know about the opportunity, even making her own “Ask Karlie” booth to attract interested applicants. She also spoke with PEOPLE to and tells them  even more about the program and answer all their coding camp questions.

Find out what makes an application stick out from the rest, how she chooses applicants and whether you’ll see her in one of the Kode With Klossy sessions this summer!

Continue on to People to read the complete article.

Inspiring kids to use STEM for good—Q & A with social media star Kitboga

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Kitboga

For Computer Science Education Week, social media star Kitboga teamed up with global STEM education nonprofit FIRST to show K-12 students how they too can use their powers for good. Kitboga hosted FIRST’s Twitch feed to chat live with students and fans about how the STEM skills they learn today can empower them to stand up for what’s right and make a difference in the world.

Diversity in STEAM Magazine (DISM) recently had the opportunity to ask Kitboga about his interest in STEM for kids.

Kitboga has become a vigilante when it comes to scam baiting, using tech skills, secret identities and wit to toy with and then take down scammers and hackers.

DISM – What inspired you to join the STEM movement?

Kitboga My parents did a fantastic job of giving me opportunities to explore the world around me and pursue learning. Whether it was backyard catapults, converting a riding lawn mower into a go-kart, or helping us reinstall Windows when we broke the family computer, my parents were there. At this point, I would almost say I’m addicted to learning. I absolutely wouldn’t be who I am today without this passion and I believe experiences like FIRST (a global education nonprofit that fuels kids’ interest in STEM through robotics-based challenges), home science experiments, the Boy Scouts, and having an encouraging family environment surrounding me set the foundation. Sadly, not everyone has the same opportunities I had as a child, but organizations like FIRST help bridge the gap.

Now as a father and online influencer, I want to help provide experiences for the younger generation that inspire them to try new things, learn from their mistakes, and pursue things they’re passionate about.

DISM – Why do you think it is important for the younger generation to get a head start in STEM?

Kitboga – I think one of the most incredible parts about us as a species is our capability to explore and  contemplate things that we know very little about. We’ve learned so much in our short time on Earth, but it seems as though we’ve only just begun in terms of what kind of technological advancements will come next. If we don’t encourage our students to push boundaries in STEM, who knows what inventions and discoveries we’ll miss out on.

It’s also important to mention that STEM is in every single industry and will only continue tobecome more prevalent as time goes on. I can’t think of a field that doesn’t benefit from advancements in STEM, or a single industry that doesn’t need a programmer, for example. I suppose STEM and loving to learn will help you help the world around you and make you valuable when it comes time to start your own family or career.

DISM – We know you spent the day building a “meme-o-meter” with young students involved in robotics, can you tell us a little more about that?

Kitboga – On my Twitch channel I spend a significant amount of time talking to scammers – people who take advantage of not-so-tech-savvy individuals, for example. Sometimes I try to include some humor and lighten the mood with jokes or start rambling about a nonsensical story to waste the scammer’s time. My community watching live will start to “spam” an emoticon:

This fills up a gauge over time and alerts me that I might be being a little too silly and the scammer might catch on to what I’m doing.

FIRST reached out about doing a project together and had the idea to recreate this in physical form. It was an incredible experience working with different technologies that I have never used before. We 3D-printed the “needle,” used Raspberry PI to interface with a servo and other parts, and coded a IRC chat bot in Python, to name a few.

Throughout the livestream I made some mistakes and learned a lot. I’m hoping it inspired some people to try projects like this on their own, or maybe even look into joining an organization like FIRST near them.

DISM – What is one thing you would tell students who are looking to pursue STEM?

Kitboga – Don’t let a fear of making mistakes stop you from diving into STEM. When I was younger, I was so afraid to “mess up” or fail when I was learning. Now I see each “mistake” as an opportunity to learn and know it’s going to make the next project or next path of my life better. So start pursuing STEM today and don’t worry if you are not “good at it” at first, it’s all part of the fun of it!

Backed By Arielle Zuckerberg, Juni Learning’s 20-Something Female Founders Are Teaching Kids To Code

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Ruby Lee, 26, and Vivian Shen, 25, believe that their one-year-old startup, Juni Learning, can succeed in the crowded field of online coding instruction for kids. Last week Juni announced a roster of angel investors who contributed to a $790,000 funding round. They include Mark Zuckerberg’s youngest sister, Arielle, a partner at venture firm Kleiner Perkins, where Lee used to work.

Lee and Shen, who met as classmates at Stanford, are modeling Juni on VIPKIDS, the China-based startup recently valued at $3 billion. VIPKIDS pays an army of 60,000 American teachers to moonlight as online English instructors for students in China.

Lee and Shen rely on computer science students at schools like Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, Harvard and MIT, whom they recruit through Facebook groups and through word-of-mouth. Juni pays its instructors $20 to $25 an hour to teach private and semiprivate online coding classes to students who range in age from kindergarten through high school. It charges a monthly subscription fee of $250 for weekly private one-hour lessons and $160 for semiprivate sessions. So far Juni has more than 300 students in 10 countries and 27 states, many of whom have signed on for six months or more.

Juni is competing with established live-instruction coding schools like CodeWizardsHQ and Tekkie Uni. But Shen said that most of them teach students in large groups. The majority of Juni’s courses are one-on-one, and Shen said she and Lee have put together a sequenced curriculum, starting with instruction in the Python computer language, that prepares students for most college computer science programs. “When we talked to high schools,” she said, “we found that they struggled to find a standardized curriculum.”

Shen was in Manhattan this week to visit friends. She also met with Randi Zuckerberg and talked about signing Zuckerberg’s 8-year-old up for Juni classes. And she appeared on Zuckerberg’s Sirius XM radio show and discussed entrepreneurship.

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

How to prepare your kids for jobs that don’t exist yet

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Artificial Intelligence will rule the jobs of the future, so learning how to work with it will be key. But the skills needed might not be what you expect.

With total robot domination seemingly impending, preparing the next generation for the future of work can feel like a lost cause. But fear not, the future may be brighter than expected.

“There’s three job opportunities coming in the future,” says Avi Goldfarb, coauthor of Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial IntelligenceHe divides them up into people who build artificial intelligence, people who tell the machines what to do and determine what to do with their output, and, finally, celebrities. This last category comprises actors, sports players, artists, writers, and other such luminaries surrounding the entertainment industry.

2017 report from Gartner concludes that artificial intelligence will create more jobs than it kills. In particular, the report singles out healthcare and education as areas ripe for growth. But the handling of artificial intelligence is where Goldfarb thinks an overwhelming number of those new jobs will be created. He thinks even human-centric positions in nursing and education will require a proficient understanding of artificially intelligent tools as the technology becomes a more routine facet of those jobs. For example, to assist with home healthcare for elderly populations, little robots have emerged to help patients remember to take their medications or go for a walk. These bots are still nascent, but it’s not hard to imagine a world in which nurses have to understand how to help patients set reminders or even be able to communicate with these devices remotely as a way of checking in on a patient as part of their jobs.

“The most valuable combinations of skills are going to be people who both have good training in computer science, who know how the machines work, but also understand the needs of society and the organization, and so have an understanding of humanities and social sciences,” he says. “That combination, already in the market, is where the biggest opportunities are.”

HUMANITIES

So how does one prepare to lead these artificially intelligent machines into the new world? Oddly enough, a liberal arts education might be the best antidote to automation, says Goldfarb. While he believes that most people will need a basic understanding of computer science, he thinks that studying art, philosophy, history, sociology, psychology, and neuroscience could be key to preparing for the future. These studies will help young people to have a broad range of knowledge that they can use to put artificial intelligence to its best use.

Experts who study the future of work agree that our ability to make sense of the world is our biggest asset in the wake of automation. While artificial intelligence is good at narrow, repetitive tasks, humans are good at coming up with creative solutions. Anything you can do to get your child thinking creatively will no doubt help prepare her for joining the working world.

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

WonderWorks Syracuse Holds WonderKids Event and School Visits with Astronaut

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SYRACUSE, New York – On June 16, 2018, WonderWorks Syracuse held an out-of-this-world WonderKids event, featuring a special guest and awarding students who had been nominated from area schools for their achievements. The event gave nominees who were picked for the WonderKids award and the public the chance to meet and greet with Dr. Donald Thomas, an astronaut who shared his experiences with the group of having completed four missions to space.

“This was a great event. Everyone who attended had a wonderful time, it was very exciting to meet Dr. Thomas and learn about  his missions to space,” says Nicole Montgomery, director of operations at WonderWorks Destiny. “We also get to recognize students in our area. We are very proud of their accomplishments and happy to honor them.”

Wonder Kids is an event that allows educators to recognize their students’ achievements throughout the year. Teachers were asked to nominate students who show extraordinary characteristics in and outside of the classroom.  All attendees receive prizes and free admissions to WonderWorks the day of the event, and are two grand prize winners selected for each category; the following were the winners of each category:

Academic Excellence:

Grade range 1st – 5th grades – Grace Mclean

Grade range 6th – 12th  – grades – Grace O’Neil

Service to Community:

Grade range 1st – 5th grades – Caitlyn Cook

Grade range 6th – 12th grades – Jose Mateo

Future Scientist:

Grade range 1st – 5th grades – Jacquelyn Gangemi

Grade range 6th – 12th grades – Tristan Ellerbruch

The WonderKids Program is held each year, honoring kids from the WonderWorks Destinycommunity who have been nominated by their teacher for various areas of  student achievement. There are three areas where kids will be honored, including academic excellence, service to community, and future scientist. All students receive a certificate for their achievements and bags of goodies from businesses that partner with WonderWorks. All nominees alsoget  free entrance into the WonderWorks the day of the event. Grand prize winners received large prize packages including items such WonderWorks annual passes, Destiny Day Passes, Comic-Con passes, Bears from Build-a-Bear, Dave & Busters prize packs, and more.

Dr. Thomas, who was the guest speaker at the event, also spent time visiting local schools on Thursday and Friday, June 14-15, 2018. He visited Huntington, Syracuse Academy of Sciences, Bellevue Elementary, Roberts, Delaware, and Syracuse Latin. His mission is to share his out-of-this-world experiences and inspire kids to learn more about STEM-related topics (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Selected by NASA in January 1990, he became an astronaut in July 1991. During his career there he spent time in the Safety, Operations, and Payloads Branches of the Astronaut Offices. He was also a spacecraft communicator for several shuttle missions, spent time in various other key roles, and went on four space flights.

“Lots of people got to meet Dr. Thomas and get their picture taken with him,” added Montgomery. “We are already looking forward to our  next WonderKids event.”

WonderWorks offers a variety of fun family friendly interactive activities to engage in, including a laser tag arena, 4D XD Motion Theater, Canyon Climb Adventure, and WonderZones – offering a variety of areas to explore, such as natural disasters, physical challenges, light and sound zones, imagination lab, and space discovery. They also offer a Sky Tykes ropes course. WonderWorks’ trademark is “I think, therefore I STEM.” They are focused on providing visitors with a variety of hands-on STEM-related activities.

WonderWorks DestinyAbout WonderWorks WonderWorks, a science-focused indoor amusement park located in Destiny USA, combines education and entertainment with over 100 hands-on exhibits. There is something unique and challenging for all ages. Adventures include: The Hurricane Shack, feel the power of 71 mph hurricane–force winds, The Bubble Lab, make huge, life–sized bubbles, The Astronaut Training Gyro, get the NASA treatment and experience zero gravity, Nail it by lying on the death–defying Bed of Nails. WonderWorks is also home to two indoor ropes courses, Canyon Climb, which is the world’s largest suspended indoor ropes course, and Sky Tykes, which is a confidence booster climb for small children. WonderWorks also hosts birthday parties and special events seasonally. Opens daily at 10 a.m. wonderworksdestiny.com.

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Tips for Parents to Help their Kids Avoid Summer Brain Drain

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Alcatraz Museum

PIGEON FORGE, Tennessee—Some people call it summer brain drain, others call it the summer learning loss. No matter what you call it, experts tend to agree that most kids tend to lose some of what they have learned over summer break.

In fact, the Brookings Institution reports that a child loses around a month’s worth of school year learning over the course of the summer. When school starts back, the backslide may become a challenge for some kids because their classes haven’t accounted for the loss in learning. The good news is there are things parents can do to help their kids avoid the summer brain drain!

“Keeping kids actively learning over the summer months is important so that their minds stays sharp and they remain in learning mode,” says Janine Vaccarello, chief operating officer for Alcatraz East. “We get many parents who bring their kids into the museum as a way to sneak in some learning in a fun environment during vacation.”

Here are some ways that Alcatraz East helps keep kids learning all summer long:
•  Safety – Being at home over the summer, kids often have more unsupervised time on their hands. The safety stops in the museum are sponsored by the National Crime Prevention Council and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and help kids learn about Internet safety, cyberbullying, and interacting with strangers on the phone or at home.
•  History – While it may not seem like history, kids and teenagers have little or no memory of the events of 9/11. The 9/11 Gallery at the museum gives parents the opportunity to share their first-hand accounts of this historic and life-changing event. Adults and children alike have been sharing their memories on the museum’s 9/11 remembrance wall, and you can, too.
•  Science – Did you know that the fingerprints of children are chemically different than those of adults which causes them to disappear faster? Kids can explore the world of forensic science and scan their fingerprint to see if they are a loop, arch, or whorl.
•  Careers in Service – The Law Enforcement Gallery covers the different jobs in law enforcement and the tools used to keep our communities safe. Kids can learn about what it takes to join the force and try their hand at driving a police car driving simulator. Displays also include Neighborhood Watch and the origins of 911 call centers.
•  Fun – Don’t forget just straight up fun is important too! Kids and adults alike love The Heist laser maze, where you see who in your family is best able to slip past a security system.
•  Additional learning – Once you visit the museum, take note of the things your child takes an interest in. Then stop off at the local library and find books and movies on those topics. This will help them continue the learning once they get home, by giving them a chance to explore the topics more. You can also give them projects to do based on the things they have chosen to learn more about, that include writing, reading, art, and creating crafts and models. If they’re in the Boy or Girl Scouts, check out the Alcatraz East website for when forensic workshops for badges are offered.

“Kids often thrive when they are exposed to new experiences, which creates great learning opportunities,” added Vaccarello. “This summer, be sure to expose your kids to new things. Bring them into the museum, giving them a chance to have fun as they continue learning, and avoid the summer learning setback.”

At the Alcatraz East Crime Museum, children can learn about pirates, legends of the old west, famous cold cases, what a police lineup is like, how to solve crimes, and what it takes to be a police officer.

The Alcatraz East Crime Museum is located at the entrance to The Island, at 2757 Parkway in Pigeon Forge. They are located near the Margaritaville Hotel and Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen. The museum offers a wide array of crime information, including notorious crimes and criminals, historic artifacts, interactive exhibits, crime scene investigation, crime detection and fighting, and information on how help avoid being a victim of crime. There are also many activities that are kid friendly, such as learning to tie knots and how to crack a safe. Items currently on display include the O.J. Simpson white Bronco from the infamous police chase, and outlaw Jesse James’ holster.

General admission tickets are $14.95 for children, $24.95 for adults. Group ticket sales are available. The museum will be open 365 days per year, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., with the last ticket sold 60 minutes before closing. For more information and to purchase tickets, log online: alcatrazeast.com.

About Alcatraz East
Alcatraz East is the most arresting crime museum in the United States. Guests of all ages can encounter a unique journey into the history of American crime, crime solving, and our justice system. Through interactive exhibits and original artifacts, Alcatraz East is an entertaining and educational experience for all ages – so much fun it’s a crime! This family attraction is located at the entrance of The Island, located at 2757 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN. For more information, visit alcatrazeast.com.

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Source:
Brookings Institution. Summer learning loss. brookings.edu/research/summer-learning-loss-what-is-it-and-what-can-we-do-about-it/

STEM: K-8 Engineering

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STEM-for-kids

As more K-8 programs focus on science, technology, engineering, and math, teachers are finding that chaos creates learning opportunities.

The project was not exactly going as planned—Carrie Allen had a classroom overrun with fruit flies. Her first graders were studying composting, and they were getting more of an ecology lesson than they’d expected. But at Richfield STEM School, an inquiry-based K–5 school in Richfield, Minnesota, both teachers and students take fruit-fly invasions in stride.

“The kids came up with the idea that we should make traps for the fruit flies,” explains Allen. Students then tested to see which traps worked the best—giving them a chance to incorporate the classic engineering-design process (ask, imagine, plan, create, improve).

“I can’t imagine not teaching like this anymore,” says Allen. “It just opens up so many other possibilities for the kids.”

STEM has been a hot topic lately, as politicians and business leaders worry over the lack of qualified workers in the sciences and engineering. Though much public discussion focuses on higher education and high school curriculum, educators and others are realizing that for students to really get hooked on the sciences, STEM instruction has to start early. That’s where Richfield STEM and other newly minted K–8 programs come into play. Elementary educators need not fear the shift in emphasis. In fact, as generalists, they are uniquely qualified to lead inquiry-based STEM lessons.

Blur the Lines

As the head of the National Center for STEM Elementary Education at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, Yvonne Ng is used to taking the intimidation factor out of STEM. She has found that one of the main challenges for teachers new to the curriculum is overcoming their discomfort with math, science, and, especially, engineering. The best STEM instruction is open-ended and inquiry-based, but this format, she says, can seem chaotic to elementary teachers.

Monica Foss advises that teachers embrace the chaos. “It’s always messy in here,” says Foss, an engineering specialist at Cedar Park Elementary STEM School in Apple Valley, Minnesota.

Teachers need to let go of the idea that they always have to have the answer, says Foss. “They have to be willing to live with mess and muddiness.”

Good STEM instruction blurs the lines between subject areas. As a consequence, STEM projects can be integrated into lessons in language arts, culture, and history.

In the Richfield district, all students are required to go through a unit on Duke Ellington; the STEM school adds another level, explains Principal Joey Page. After listening to Ellington’s music, students answer questions such as “How does sound work?” or “How did they make that instrument?” Page says the school is hoping to have students take apart one of its decommissioned pianos as part of the unit.

Hilburn Academy, in Raleigh, North Carolina, is in its second year of making the transition from a traditional curriculum to a STEAM school (the A is for arts). Elements of the traditional classroom remain, says Principal Gregory Ford, but the engineering-design process is used for all subjects. For example, guided reading groups may be tasked with coming up with solutions for a problem posed in their informational texts.

The biggest challenge for Ford’s teachers is finding time for open-ended learning. So they, like their students, work in groups to find solutions.

“It requires lots and lots of planning and collaboration with your teammates,” Ford says. “There’s really no existing inventory of these highly integrated STEAM lessons.”

And how does Hilburn Academy define STEAM?

“STEAM is a philosophy of education, not a program,” Ford says. “It is not the ‘what’ of curriculum; it is actually the ‘how.’”

Look Outside the iPad

It takes work to develop a STEM program. But districts don’t have to be flush with cash and expensive digital technology to implement it.

“Pretty much anything around us is technology,” says Richfield’s Allen. “That’s one thing we’re teaching the kids, too: Everything around us was created or engineered to solve a problem.”

Sophisticated STEM projects can be built around a simple tool such as a temperature probe, says David Carter, coauthor of a number of lab manuals, including Elementary Science With Vernier. For example, third graders could set out to create a vessel that keeps water as warm as possible. The science part comes into play as students learn the concept of heat transfer; the engineering side involves designing the best thermos. The temperature sensor itself allows students to record data, track their experiments, and improve their designs.

The motion-sensor project is another favorite of Carter’s. “They get the concept that this graph is telling a story,” he says. “They’re seeing this mathematical concept.” That, he explains, gets to the real advantage of STEM: “It’s easy because kids love it.”

At Dr. Albert Einstein Academy in Elizabeth, New Jersey, technology can be as simple as a doorstop. Teachers often struggled to prop open heavy classroom doors, so they tasked students to design a better way to do it. (One early version was a sand-filled water bottle flattened in the middle. Another version made use of a cork-and-magnet device.) Tracy Espiritu, a science coach at the K–8 STEAM school, says a lot of teachers start with the question: “What is technology?”
The school has three criteria for teaching STEAM (here, the A is for architecture): Projects should be about solving a problem; students must apply the engineering-­design process; and technology should be considered a resource, not a subject.

Perhaps the most important lesson they learn along the way: Failure is part of the process.

Rethink Failure

The key to STEM (or STEAM) education is reinforcing the engineering-design process, says Espiritu, who worked in aerospace engineering before teaching middle school science. “Engineers, they don’t get it right the first time,” she says.

The learning process is a cycle. With each iteration, the design improves, says Espiritu. “Students get frustrated because they want the answer right away. You need that frustration. That’s how you learn.”

It took Allen a while to grasp the necessity of letting her kids fail. You want students to feel good about the experience, she says, but it’s okay for them to feel the discomfort that comes when something is not working.

Students at Minnesota’s Cedar Park Elementary face their first design challenge in kindergarten by building a boat out of clay, says Foss, the engineering specialist. Introducing kids to the engineering process—having them start again and fix the mistakes—at that age is much easier because they haven’t yet developed a fear of failure.

“We definitely need more scientists and engineers,” says Foss, but more than that, “we need a population that understands science and the engineering process.”

“This Is What We Need to Do Today”

STEM is continuing to gain steam, but will it sustain momentum?

Ng has seen increasing demand for her organization’s elementary STEM teacher certification program, which is offered through St. Catherine University, but still, she says, “whether it’s here to stay is a really good question.”

As with any new approach, challenges remain.

Public education needs STEM to remain relevant, says Ford, of Hilburn Academy. And students immediately grasp that relevance. He recalls one second-grade teacher remarking that students used to come into class and ask, “What are we doing today?” Now they say, “This is what we need to do today.”

STEM Resources

Start with the basics. You don’t need a cartload of iPads to teach STEM. Begin by looking out your front door. Does your school have a courtyard? Start a garden. Try a “tech take-apart” lesson by disassembling old TVs or VCRs. Students can build bridges out of manila folders or boats out of clay (see above); they can incorporate the engineering-design process (ask, imagine, plan, create, improve) into a variety of art projects.

Reach out to local institutions. Whether there’s a nature center or a tech company next door to your school, your neighbors are the best folks to start with when you’re seeking resources for STEM initiatives. And be sure to cultivate partnerships with local businesses and colleges, too.

See what the state offers. Many state education departments have set up websites with STEM resources. Visit stemconnector.org and click on “State by State” to find links to organizations in your area. The site serves as a clearinghouse of resources offered by corporations, nonprofits, and professional organizations.

From the Math Magazine, Scholastic.

Why Parents Should Help Kids Focus On Turning Their Dreams Into Reality

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Toymakerz

REIDSVILLE, NC –  Each year there are kids who hang up what they love and walk away. They leave the sports behind, stop playing their favorite games, quit drawing, building, and more. They are led to believe that unless what they are doing is seen as constructive and fits into the boxes that have been set for them that they are simply wasting their time. Many of those kids are walking away from what they are passionate about, rather than being taught to follow their dreams. One celebrity, David Ankin, who followed his passion and dreams has set out on a mission to inspire kids to do the same.

“There is a reason why we all have things we are passionate about. Those are your calling and you should do anything but turn your back on them,” says David Ankin, inventor and star of the hit show ToyMakerz. “I’ve met with many kids around the nation and I try to inspire them to follow those passions. I want them to turn their dreams into a reality. The rest of the world is waiting for what it is that they have to offer. Only when they embrace it will they be able to bring it to the forefront for everyone else to enjoy.”

Ankin doesn’t just talk the talk. He’s a living example of turning a dream into a reality and the importance of following one’s passion. Having a passion for creating one-of-a-kind custom hot rods and cars, considered to be adult toys that are built for fun or speed, he took his love for these machines and built an empire. That dream turned into a reality when he started a company called ToyMakerz, where the adult toys are made, and has also been turned into a hit television show, where people can tune in and see him work his magic.

Committed to giving back, Ankin routinely gives talks to kids and their parents, with the theme focused on inspiring them to follow their dreams. Whether giving these talks at city events or at schools, his mission remains the same. He wants to let kids and their parents know that it’s OK to have a passion and that they don’t have to give it up simply because they become adults. Rather, they should embrace it and see where it will take them.

Here are 6 reasons why Ankin believes that parents should help kids focus on turning their dreams into reality:

  • Happiness. We are happiest when we are following our passion and doing things that excite us. By getting kids to follow their passion, they will have more joy in their life.
  • Creativity. Those who follow their passion will find their own way in the world. They can’t be told that what they want to do isn’t possible. They will use their creativity to navigate the way, even if it means clearing a new path.
  • Support. The world has a way of trying to hold people back from reaching their dreams. Parents who support their kids in pursuing theirs will help to create confident kids who won’t be held back by limitations.
  • Work ethic. No matter what a child’s passion may be, it will take hard work to turn it into a career. Teaching kids to work hard for what they want is a great way to build a strong work ethic.
  • Adventure. Many adults find themselves at a standstill and wish there was something more. Kids who are taught to follow their dreams will feel as though they have been given a ticket to adventure. They are more likely to grow up to be adults who have passion for what they do.
  • Exploration. By letting kids follow their dreams they will dive into exploring a topic they are interested in. Giving them the ability to learn more about whatever field it is they are interested in can go a long way toward sparking their creativity and expanding their education. Places like WonderWorks (a science focused indoor amusement park) is a great place for exploring STEM education and letting the imagination run wild.

“If I hadn’t followed my passion and turned my dream into a reality, I’d not be where I am today,” added Ankin. “I know the importance of following your dreams and it feels so good to do so. I’m committed to helping parents see the importance of supporting their child’s dreams and encouraging them to dream big. This is what I teach my son and hope that I’m able to inspire others.”

ToyMakerz was founded by David Ankin, who is a former stuntman WonderWorks_ToyMakerzwho used to do stunts with motorcycles, racecars, and also at Universal Studios for their Batman and Water World shows. Watching his father use metal to build things when he was growing up inspired him to go on to do the same. Today, he has earned praise for the eccentric one-of-kind street machines that he’s built. There is nothing idle about his work. Ankin has surrounded himself with a top-notch team, starting with David Young, who is his business partner. Young manages the business side of ToyMakerz and serves as its President and CFO.

ToyMakerz partnered with Source Digital to develop an app, which is helping fans connect with the show. Enhancing the viewer experience with new digital brand integrations, the ToyMakerz app lets fans connect with the cast, score exclusive deals on anything they see on the screen while they are watching the show live, and share pictures of their own rides!

The ToyMakerz TV show is currently re-airing episodes from season 2 On Demand on Velocity. ToyMakerz season one is also available on iTunes and Amazon. ToyMakerz is produced by Los Angeles based production company, Lucky13Cinematic. For more information about ToyMakerz, visit the site at: http://toymakerz.com.

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About ToyMakerz

ToyMakerz is a company that makes adult toys built for fun and speed. Some of their creations can be seen on the ToyMakerz hit television show focusing on the life and creations of Dave Ankin, a former stuntman who now makes toys for big boys. The show features the one-of-a-kind street machines that he builds. ToyMakerz is currently being aired weekly on Velocity. For more information about ToyMakerz, visit the site at: http://toymakerz.com.

About Source Digital
Source Digital (www.sourcedigital.net) specializes in content monetization strategies letting viewers dive deeper into their favorite programs. Industry-leading experts developed the Source Digital platform, offering a data driven, cloud-based engagement platform connecting a new generation of content viewers. The platform allows content owners to design and fulfill personalization and monetization strategies against their broadcast or streamed programs directly connecting to viewers, allowing them to instantly access and discover related experiences from their favorite device – smart phone, tablet, computer and TV.

Disney Donates $1 Million to Youth STEM Program in Celebration of ‘Black Panther’

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In celebration of the record-breaking success of Marvel Studios’ Black Panther, The Walt Disney Company is donating $1 million to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA).   The donation will help expand Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s youth STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs, supporting the high-tech skills that were a major theme in the plot of Black Panther and are essential in helping youth succeed.

“Marvel Studios’ Black Panther is a masterpiece of movie making and has become an instant cultural phenomenon, sparking discussion, inspiring people young and old, and breaking down age-old industry myths,” said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company. “It is thrilling to see how inspired young audiences were by the spectacular technology in the film, so it’s fitting that we show our appreciation by helping advance STEM programs for youth, especially in underserved areas of the country, to give them the knowledge and tools to build the future they want.”

Boys & Girls Clubs of America will use this one-time grant to further develop its existing national STEM curriculum, and establish new STEM Centers of Innovation in 12 communities across the country. The curriculum and new centers will serve and inspire kids and teens, with an emphasis in the following communities: Atlanta, GA; Baltimore, MD; Chicago, IL; Harlem, NY; Hartford, CT; Memphis, TN; New Orleans, LA; Oakland, CA; Orlando, FL; Philadelphia, PA; Washington, DC; Watts, CA.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Centers of Innovation provide youth with hands-on, advanced technologies that stimulate creative approaches to STEM exploration, including 3-D printers, robotics, high-definition video production and conferencing equipment. In addition, a fully dedicated STEM expert will offer individual and group support, using real-world applications to help Club members develop their STEM skills and critical thinking.

“From hands-on interactive programs to critical thinking, Boys & Girls Clubs of America is committed to providing thousands of young people with the tools they need to prepare for a great future,” said Jim Clark, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of America. “Thanks to Disney’s support, we can expand our outreach and allow more youth to find their passions and discover STEM careers.”

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