‘STEAM’ing Ahead Through Project-Based Learning in Uganda

By Usha Rajdev

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Dr. Rajdev is a counselor for Marymount University’s, Alpha Beta Delta Chapter, of Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society, and leads the STEM initiative in KDP’s International Committee. She’s a faculty advisor for the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) Student Chapter and also for Marymount University’s Global STEM Certificate.

With this need to prepare our youth for future challenges in mind, in November 2018, in Indianapolis, I presented a ‘STEAMing Scientists’ workshop (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) about my upcoming STEM teaching approach. The following year, I would model this approach for the KDP Esooka chapter in Uganda. After my Indianapolis presentation, several audience members asked to meet with me. They expressed their interest in this upcoming STEM hands-on teaching approach. In 2019, I embarked on a journey to provide STEM education to teachers and institutions of the Esooka KDP Chapter. This STEM education was part of the KDP STEM Initiative. Over the course of two weeks I met with faculty members from one university and administrators and teachers from four local high schools to develop STEM programs. Under my guidance, The Mosquito! Module (https://ssec.si.edu/mosquito) was implemented at the five institutions. Teachers from each institution engaged in training using local resources to later implement this project with their students.

The Mosquito! Module framework focused on sustainable actions that students defined and implemented to reduce mosquito infestations in and around schools. The content of the module included cleaning wells, removal of stagnant water, learning the life cycle of mosquitoes and the spread of diseases, and the importance and urgency of engineering and designing mosquito traps. The Ugandian students continued to work and strengthen their projects and traps throughout 2019. They were actively engaged in informing their surrounding community about the mosquito problems and offering realistic and sustainable solutions. The students also communicated with the school nurse to document the decline in cases of malaria in their schools. They were looking forward to sharing their data and projects at the next International KDP/STEM Convo in 2020. However, due to COVID-19 canceling the 2020 Convocation, this KDP presentation will take place at a later date.

Uganda’s KDP/STEM story does not end here with the Mosquito! Module. The Ugandan teachers will continue to work on this module over the coming years and will present their projects at some point when routine life begins. They plan to mentor and expand this Mosquito! Module with other schools and will begin their work on the Smithsonian Science Education Center’s COVID19! Module with me. The effects of the contagion will be compared with that of the mosquito diseases within their local communities.

Teachers and students met monthly online with me to update their progress and receive support on how to best continue and overcome any challenges. In October 2019, members of the Esooka Chapter met with the Smithsonian Science Education Center to discuss progress of the Module. Some schools had an abundance of stagnant water, while others dealt with marsh areas. The teachers and I also discussed ideas for the future of the program including an International KDP/STEM Conference that is planned for Kampala, in Uganda, when the COVID-19 pandemic ends. A Ugandan teacher who worked with our STEM program entered his student in a STEM competition. Of the 1,200 students involved in the project, the student’s presentation, demonstrating his passion for sustainability, was one of the winning projects. (https://bit.ly/2BSa2Qm). All five institutions are working on the criteria for a ‘STEM School Certificate’ through Marymount University’s Global STEM Chapter.

As described by the Esooka Chapter Counselor, Joyce, Nansubuga, this experience through KDP’s STEM Initiative helped in… “making teaching and learning more practical through the PBL approach, being an innovative teacher and a lifelong learner, and embracing STEAM in preparations of our lessons and in teaching.”

The journey continues. (https://bit.ly/2NHoJs7).

The Future is STEM: Why We Need to Engage Girls Early

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs in STEM will have higher than average projected growth in the next ten years but only a small fraction of girls and women are likely to pursue degrees in STEM.

Despite many initiatives and efforts, women continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields.

In Cracking the Code, a report on STEM education for girls and women put forth by UNESCO, Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s Director-General states: “Only 17 women have won a Nobel Prize in physics, chemistry, or medicine since Marie Curie in 1903, compared to 572 men. Today, only 28% of all of the world’s researchers are women. Such huge disparities, such deep inequality, do not happen by chance.”

The reasons behind why girls and women are underrepresented in STEM fields are complex (see Dr. Yvonne Skipper’s recent KDP blog post).

Microsoft recently funded a research project that indicated that a variety of reasons exist why.  For instance, it was found that girls tend to lose interest in STEM subjects around middle school (Tan, E., Calabrese Barton, A., Kang, H., & O’Neill, T., 2013). Identity and stereotypes related to membership in STEM fields can have a dampening effect on motivation to pursue STEM for many girls (Shapiro, J. R., & Williams, A. M., 2012). Confidence also plays a big role in motivation and orientation towards STEM fields (Heaverlo, C. (2011). STEM development: A study of 6th-12th grade girls’ interest and confidence in mathematics and science.)

Gladly, research into this critical issue has also demonstrated some proven strategies that work:

  • Teacher and parent influences and role modeling help: studies show encouragement from parents and teachers can have a profound effect on STEM engagement among girls and increases motivation for entering into the field (Rabenberg, T. A., 2013).
  • After-school programs and science clubs: Research also indicates that schools and communities need to invest in and provide space and opportunity for girls to engage in STEM.  (Tyler-Wood, T., Ellison, A., Lim, O., & Periathiruvadi, S., 2012 and Vingilis-Jaremko, L., 2010)
  • Inquiry-based STEM curriculum plays a role: Transforming STEM curriculum from learning and memorizing to doing has, time and time again, shown to elicit interest from all students in STEM: (Burns, H.D. & Staus, N, 2016)

Women make up 49.6% of the world population.

It’s crucial that, as STEM careers and industries grow, women continue to be a strong part of the progression.

The best practices for involving women comes early in their lives through schools, teachers, parents, and communities.

Dr. Mubina Schroeder

Dr. Mubina Schroeder is an Associate Professor at Molloy College, where she co-directs the Cognition and Learning Lab.  She is a Kappa Delta Pi United Nations Professional Representative and serves on the Board of Directors for the United Nations NGO/DPI.

References

Burns, H. D., Lesseig, K., & Staus, N. (2016, October). Girls’ interest in STEM. In 2016 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE) (pp. 1-5). IEEE.

Tyler-Wood, T., Ellison, A., Lim, O., & Periathiruvadi, S. (2012). Bringing up girls in science (BUGS): The effectiveness of an afterschool environmental science program for increasing female students’ interest in science careers. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 21(1), 46-55.

Vingilis-Jaremko, L. (2010). How Science Clubs Can Support Girls’ Interest in Science. LEARNing Landscapes, 3(2), 155-160.

Rabenberg, T. A. (2013). Middle school girls’ STEM education: Using teacher influences, parent encouragement, peer influences, and self efficacy to predict confidence and interest in math and science

Tan, E., Calabrese Barton, A., Kang, H., & O’Neill, T. (2013). Desiring a career in STEM‐related fields: How middle school girls articulate and negotiate identities‐in‐practice in science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 50(10), 1143-1179.

Shapiro, J. R., & Williams, A. M. (2012). The role of stereotype threats in undermining girls’ and women’s performance and interest in STEM fields. Sex Roles, 66(3-4), 175-183.

Rabenberg, T. A. (2013). Middle school girls’ STEM education: Using teacher influences, parent encouragement, peer influences, and self efficacy to predict confidence and interest in math and science (Doctoral dissertation, Drake University).

Steinke, J. (2017). Adolescent girls’ STEM identity formation and media images of STEM professionals: Considering the influence of contextual cues. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 716.

Climate Change: An Opportunity for STEM Education

Dr. Mubina Schroeder is an Associate Professor at Molloy College and is a Kappa Delta Pi United Nations Professional Representative.

In preparation for the upcoming Climate Change Summit at the United Nations, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated:

“We need rapid and deep change in how we do business, generate power, build cities and feed the world.” 

Climate change and its far-reaching effects on the lives of everyone in the global community represent a unique challenge for society—and a unique opportunity for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. STEM educators often contend with ways to promote scientific literacy.

How can we create the next generation of critical thinkers, creative problem solvers, and solution engineers?

One pathway is to promote awareness of socioscientific issues (SSI). Zeidler and Nicols (2009) describe SSI:

“Socioscientific issues involve the deliberate use of scientific topics that require students to engage in dialogue, discussion and debate. They are usually controversial in nature but have the added element of requiring a degree of moral reasoning or the evaluation of ethical concerns in the process of arriving at decisions regarding possible resolution of those issues. The intent is that such issues are personally meaningful and engaging to students, require the use of evidence-based reasoning, and provide a context for understanding scientific information.”

Climate change is an issue that affects every corner of the world, and students in every classroom may be witness to some of its effects. 

Several regions in the world have experienced unprecedented heat waves, water shortages, and extreme weather events–all because of climate change. The beauty of teaching using an SSI approach is that socioscientific issues often are complicated and multifaceted–allowing STEM pedagogues to be creative in teaching about them.

Some great resources on teaching about climate change can be found here:

References

Zeidler, D. L., & Nichols, B. H. (2009). Socioscientific issues: Theory and practice. Journal of Elementary Science Education, 21(2), 49.

How to Incorporate Environmental Science in Your Classroom

Rodriguez-Kaitlyn_blogHi there – it’s Kaitlyn Rodriguez again.

Sustainability and conservation are both key in helping the Earth.

Lately, more than ever, it seems that companies and organizations are moving toward more “green” practices.

Solar panels and alternative energy sources are becoming more prevalent. Recycling initiatives are seen everywhere.

Schools must now start incorporating these practices into the classroom and teaching students how to protect and help the Earth—but how?

With new curriculum standards and practices being mandated, many teachers feel overwhelmed and without enough time for “extra” activities.

What some people don’t know, however, is how simple it can be to incorporate green practices into their daily curriculum and schools. Below are suggestions of what teachers can do to learn more about being eco-friendly, teaching their students about the environment, and helping their school and community.

  1. Host environmental cleanup days. Whether scheduled weekly or monthly, having cleanups at the park, beach, or even school can be simple, fun, and family-friendly activities for all to participate.
  2. Increase the emphasis of environmental concerns in the curriculum. Environmental issues can be incorporated into any grade level and subject. Besides the obvious science lessons, English lessons can involve students writing research reports on endangered species or writing persuasive letters to local officials, urging them to increase their environmental awareness. Social Studies lessons can involve looking at the timelines and history of conservation efforts and sustainable practices, while examining local and national politics regarding the environment.
    • Some organizations offer teacher resources to teach environmental awareness in the classroom. In New York State, for example, the Department of Environmental Conservation hosts a series of educator workshops that provide all attendees with a book of resources, lessons, and curriculum suggestions (dec.ny.gov/education/2035.html).
  3. Go on a field trip! Kids love getting out of the classroom. By going to nature centers or places that deal with the conservation of a particular species, you are helping to make the world more sustainable. Show your students that some people work on these initiatives all their lives, which could be something they may want to do when they get older. If traveling to the site would pose an issue, work with your building administrators on bringing the organizations to your school. A simple Google search provides myriad results for field trip ideas in each state (e.g., Kansas: www.ifamilykc.com/blog/education-learning/field-trip-ideas).
  4. Take the classroom outside. Teach a lesson outdoors to give your students the chance to get some fresh air. Let them put what they’re learning to use in their local community. Go for a nature walk and teach your class about observations and predictions. Test a science experiment outside. Bring your class to an open field and let the nature around them provide inspiration for poetry or any form of writing.
  5. Make a STEAM project assignment that involves recycled or upcycled materials. Assign your class a project over a break that involves using recycled/recyclable materials to create something new, such as a robot. Keeping a project open-ended allows students to display their creativity and interests. Here are some suggestions of activities: https://leftbraincraftbrain.com/stem-goes-green-17-upcycled-and-earth-friendly-projects-for-kids
  6. Provide students, faculty, and staff with environmental, conservation, and sustainability resources from local organizations. Providing literature on what one can do and how one can help—and what can result from one person’s efforts—can offer the motivation to get involved and become interested in these topics. Increasing the availability of such resources in each classroom also is important. Scholastic has nonfiction articles for the younger grades, and National Geographic also makes magazines and articles that students can read. Look for ways to add more nonfiction pieces to your classroom library. Here are some books you may be interested in buying for your classroom: www.amightygirl.com/mighty-girl-picks/top-children-s-books-on-the-environment
  7. Start a Go Green initiative in your classroom and school. Set up recycling bins around the school. Have your students use both sides of their paper. If copies are made incorrectly, or you have extra paper, keep a scrap paper bin for students to use for projects, drafting ideas, and more. If you can afford it, or fundraise for it, buy your students metal water bottles to bring to class instead of plastic bottles. Model for the students what it means to Go Green and they will follow in your footsteps!

These are only seven ways to make your classroom and school a greener one.

If every classroom were to do at least one of these suggestions, just imagine the impact all those students could make on the world.

Tell us how you plan on incorporating sustainable practices in your classroom this year on the Educator Learning Network!

Sources

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Dr. Yvonne Skipper

Today’s blogger is Yvonne Skipper, who co-authored with Eloise de Carvalho to write “’I Have Seen the Opportunities That Science Brings’: Encouraging Girls to Persist in Science,” which appears in the latest issue of The Educational Forum.

This time-honored question, which children across the globe are asked with regularity, can lead to surprising responses.

Beyond the whimsical “princess” and “unicorn” to the heart-warming “happy,” children often have strong ideas even before they reach school.

However, as children get older and learn more about the world, these ideas can change.

For example, we cannot all become a real princess like Megan Markle! Sometimes these views change, not because of how children see the world, but because of how the world sees them. Society may openly or subtly suggest that certain jobs are for men and others for women.

This view can impact the subjects and careers children choose, as illustrated in this brief video.

There is currently a huge demand for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) graduates in the workforce. Those with a STEM background are valued not just in the science-based jobs, but also in other roles where the ability to think critically, analyze data, and evaluate evidence is prized.

However, often children are not interested in STEM subjects, seeing them as “too hard” or “boring,” and they are even less interested in scientific careers. When you look at those who do continue in science, typically you find more boys in STEM subjects, such as math and physics, and in pursuit of careers such as engineering. This difference is not seen because girls lack talent in these subjects. In fact, girls often perform better than boys, receiving higher proportions of the top grades. So why are these talented girls less likely to continue in STEM than boys?

It has been suggested that we choose our subjects and our careers based on whether we think we can succeed and our values.

Boys are more likely than girls to believe they can succeed in STEM, even though they are overall less likely to get the highest grades. Their belief might come from seeing so many famous male scientists, both in academia and in fiction. This can lead boys and girls to believe that men are more likely to succeed and also more likely to “belong” in science. Even the television show Big Bang Theory focuses more on male scientists; female scientists Amy and Bernadette do not appear until later seasons and are working in the more “female” fields of medicine and neurobiology. It is important that the media fully represent female scientists in their factual and fiction programming.

We also choose subjects and careers that we think we will enjoy and that we see as useful in our lives or in our communities.

Many girls choose careers where they can help others, such as teaching, midwifery, and social work. Girls often do not perceive STEM careers as “helpful.” This is interesting because, for example, designing a new wheelchair to manage rough terrain, creating inclusive educational technologies, and researching cures for diseases could have a positive impact and help people worldwide. Yet often girls do not make the connection between STEM subjects and the impact of associated careers, and may prefer a more interpersonal approach to helping.

Promoting how “helpful” science can be could potentially lead girls to develop an understanding about how science improves society.

In our Forum article, Eloise and I are not saying that girls should be pushed into science careers, but instead that women should not leave a subject or career path for the “wrong” reason, such as believing that they are less likely to succeed than others or that they will not belong. Instead it is important that we feel able to choose our subjects and career paths in line with our interests and goals for ourselves and our communities.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through June 30, 2019.

Host an Hour of Code Event in Six Steps

Dr. Megan Nickels

Drs. Megan Nickels and Laurie O. Campbell are Assistant Professors of STEM Education in the College of Education and Human Performance at the University of Central Florida.

The push to expose today’s students to computer science activities has quickly become a global priority, with high visibility events, such as the Hour of Code (this year: December 3–9, 2018), reaching nearly 400 million students since its 2013 launch.

Dr. Laurie Campbell

In addition to the many responsibilities you face as a new teacher, you are now expected to facilitate a subject for which you may have had little experience. Very likely, you may wonder: How can I plan to successfully implement computer science activities in my classroom?

The easiest entry into teaching computer science is to host an Hour of Code event. The Hour of Code is an annual event held each December during Computer Science Education Week that invites students of all ages to learn the basics of computer science through highly engaging tutorials on an array of themes such as Angry Birds, Star Wars, and Disney’s Moana. During the one-hour event, your students will use computers, tablets, or other devices to complete the tutorials using Blockly, the drag-and-drop programming language (see Figure 1).

Figure 1.

Getting Started

Begin planning for your Hour of Code event by trying a tutorial yourself. Visit the Disney-sponsored Hour of Code to try a tutorial. Once you have the opportunity to try one or more tutorials, you can decide which tutorial will best motivate and engage students during your event. With your chosen tutorial in mind, follow these steps to ensure a successful Hour of Code event.

  1. Plan the learning configuration that will meet the needs of your students.

*Tip- Groups of 2–3 work well for young children in grades K–5. Older students are more successful with 1–1 technology.

  1. Decide what devices your students will use and make arrangements to have them available during your event.
  2. Schedule a specific time for your event and let students know that they are part of a global initiative to learn how to code their world.
  3. Garner excitement by introducing famous coders like supermodel, Karlie Kloss, or NBA basketball player Chris Bosh through Hour of Code videos.
  4. Finally, give the students an opportunity to discover drag-and-drop coding at your first Hour of Code event!
  5. Once the students have completed the tutorial, debrief with them about their experience and introduce them to more advanced coding tutorials at code.org or other websites such as Scratch and Code Avengers.

General Tips

  • Provide children with information or explanation about the programming blocks or procedures specific to the task. Use phrases such as You can expect … You will see …
  • Provide an advanced organizer for students who may have trouble remembering or sequencing programming blocks.
  • Provide strategy cues for the end of tutorial challenges.

Resource

Nickels, M. (2016, June 27). How do we prepare teachers to teach coding? Retrieved from http://gettingsmart.com/2016/06/prepare-teachers-teach-coding/

 

 

A Job—The Ultimate Goal

IMG_0155

Students had to successfully construct a roller coaster, test the marble to have 10 consecutive successful runs without falling off of the track, and either land that marble in a cup at the end or knock it over. It was a great STEM lab.

“Beginning student teaching is going to be a scary experience.”

…at least that’s what I told my fellow cohort members/friends at Rowan University back at the start of Clinical Internship I in 2014. We are all trying to reach the same goal and once that is realized, it helps put things into perspective. It’s always great to remember that you have fellow students, teachers, professors, and family to help you through anything that life throws at you. Relying on their inputs really helped me get through the biggest transition period in my life.

The hardest part of student teaching for me was showing the students I had confidence in what I was teaching. From day one, students read your vibes and if you are not fully committed, they will know! On the other hand, if you are passionate and enthusiastic in what you are teaching, the students will, in a sense, fall in love with your teaching style. I was not really an expert when teaching language arts, but as long as I was confident in what I was teaching and was prepared, I knew I was going to be successful. Being passionate and motivating students is an eye opening experience and like my sister Tracy (a teacher) told me once, “The word of an admired teacher carries more weight than anyone realizes.”

In Rowan University’s Master of Science Teaching program, we student taught for two semesters. Organization with college classes, lesson plans, and hands-on experiments were all very time consuming. Some days I did not leave the school until 7 pm because I was trying to prepare for the next day. The more I felt I was organizedIMG_0134, the easier it was to teach the following day. Do not wait to start becoming organized until you take over the entire classroom; start on Day One. Trust me, it will make your life a lot easier!

Even though student teaching brings a vast number of surprises throughout the course of the one- or two-semester-long internship, one surprise was the way other teachers treated me. I was accepted into the building by the staff at Folsom Elementary and never looked back. As long as you carry yourself professionally, you will be respected. Everyone that has become a teacher has gone through student teaching, and they know how hard it is, so always say hello to everyone in the halls and offer assistance to anyone that may need it. If you can get along with everyone at the school you are student teaching in, then you can go anywhere and be a successful teacher. This is just a stepping stone and you never know when you may be offered a job! That is the ultimate goal.

Lastly, there isIMG_0103 one thing that I wish I known before going into student teaching and that was to take it one day at a time. From completing my action research, to edTPA, to trying to make 6 different lesson plans per day (I was in elementary education), it really got overwhelming at times. Some days I would feel that there was too much to do and that I did not have enough time to complete all the jobs I needed to complete. Looking back, I wish I could say to myself to take it one day at a time and everything will work itself out. As long as you stay organized, act professionally, and show enjoyment in what you are doing, you will be just fine. Good luck!

Rick HegganHeggan 2 is a recent graduate from Rowan University’s Master of Science, Teaching program where his concentration was in Elementary Education. He also received his middle school endorsement in Science during this time. Currently, Rick is teaching 6th and 8th grade Science at the Neeta School in Medford Lakes, New Jersey. Prior to this, Rick worked at the Hammonton Middle School as a paraprofessional aide for almost two (2) years. His professional experience includes working at Adams, Rehmann and Heggan (surveying and engineering corporation) for eight (8) years. He recently was awarded KDP/ATE Student Teacher of the Year for 2015.