• Enduring the Test of Time: A LASER Alum Reflects

    Posted by Tom Peters on Monday, January 26, 2015 ( 0 )
    Tom Petersis the Executive Director of South Carolina's Coalition for Mathematics and Science (SCCMS) and a longtime proponent of theLASER model. Tom is a recognized leader in STEM education and a recipient of the National Science Education Leadership Association's 2010 Outstanding Leader in Science Education award. He has shared his expertise beginning at some of the earliest leadership institutes held by the SSEC and continues to work with us today. We look forward to hearing about Tom’s latest endeavors during the2015 Regional Leaders Meetingin Washington, DC on May 14-15. Back in the early 2000s, one of television’s most popular shows was Fear Factor. This show pitted contestants against each other and their fears for prizes and the glory that comes from reality show exposure. Contestants typically submitted to close encounters with God’s less cuddly creatures, were challenged to eat items not typically found in restaurants or grocery stores, and were submerged in liquids of dubious origin. So, what does Fear Factor have to do with LASER?

  • Reaching Beyond Borders: 2014 Mexico SPI

    Posted by Katie Gainsback on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 ( 0 )
    Having only traveled to Mexico previously on vacations, I was a bit nervous to arrive in the capital city last month to support the Mexico Strategic Planning Institute (SPI). Knowing I could only describe my Spanish as “no bueno,” I felt anxious about spending 10 days in Mexico City with esteemed science teachers and education officials from seven states. However, what followed after SSEC Director of Professional Services Amy D'Amico, facilitator John Tully, and I touched down at Benito Juárez International Airport on December 4, 2014 was nothing short of a transformative experience. Friday dawned bright and early as we made our way across the city to the offices of our host Innovación en la Enseñanza de la Ciencia A.C. (INNOVEC), or Innovation in Science Education to non-Spanish speakers. INNOVEC is a long-time partner of the SSEC and promotes strategies to improve the teaching of science, which includes supporting the implementation of our STC™ units at grades 1-6 in Mexico through professional development, assessment, and materials support. INNOVEC operates out of La Fundación México-Estados Unidos para la Ciencia (FUMEC) or the US - Mexico Foundation for Science. SSEC’s Director of Professional Services Amy D’Amico with faculty presenter Daniel Alcazar-Roman

  • Picking up STEAM

    Posted by Cathy Wang on Wednesday, January 07, 2015 ( 0 )
    This post was written in the summer of 2014 by SSEC intern Cathy Wang. Image from The STEAM movement has been making big waves since 2010, but what is it exactly? The answer to this question is simple: STEAM is a movement mounted by advocates for including the arts in an education system that heavily emphasizes STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields. This heavy focus on STEM derives from a world economy driven by the growing science and technology sectors. STEAM supporters argue that pushing students towards learning “hard skills” (e.g., coding, programming, etc.) is done at the expense of the arts, which works to the detriment of the country’s workforce and productivity in the long-run. Will STEAM efforts add value to K-12 education? In short the answer is yes; but that is if, and only if, these efforts are executed in a systematic and meaningful way. Here at the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC), we believe in a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach to education and the dispersal of knowledge to the general public, much like the rest of the Smithsonian Institution. While the SSEC largely advocates STEM education, it lives under an umbrella of Smithsonian organizations that includes 19 museums and galleries in Washington, DC alone, the majority of which are not STEM-centric. As an intern, the SSEC embodies to me the idea that we cannot have science without art, and vice versa. If anything, the truth is that making STEM accessible and interesting for K-12 students is a goal best met when scientists and non-scientists collaborate. In this way, the SSEC represents the important intersection of the arts and sciences by delivering a curriculum that is not only rigorous, but also engaging.

  • Crosscutting Concepts: The Bigger Picture

    Posted by Katya Vines on Monday, December 01, 2014 ( 0 )
    As teachers across America contend with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), many are no doubt asking themselves whether these are really any different from previous standards. One way to answer this question is to look at the crosscutting concepts: eight broad concepts that transcend disciplines in science. As an example, look at the crosscutting concept, Patterns: Observed patterns in nature guide organization and classification and prompt questions about relationships and causes underlying them. The NGSS suggest that this crosscutting concept is useful for teaching topics as diverse as relationships in ecosystems, evolution, tectonic processes, and chemical reactions. On the face of it, the crosscutting concepts look very similar to the unifying concepts and processes in the National Science Education Standards (NSES). However, an important difference between the crosscutting concepts and the unifying concepts and processes is that the crosscutting concepts are now integrated into the performance expectations in the NGSS. This means that every lesson should combine disciplinary content with both crosscutting concepts and science and engineering practices as discussed in an earlier post.

  • The Science of Learning: A Self-Regulatory Perspective

    Posted by Brian Mandell on Monday, November 10, 2014 ( 0 )
    How do you learn? Think about it honestly for a second. Do you create notecards? Do you watch instructional videos? Do you even know? Have you ever asked your students how they learn best? Discussing the science of learning with students tends to be a messy business. It takes time and is usually outside our areas of expertise. Understanding how students prepare for an assessment is arguably more important than how they perform. At least then we, as teachers, have something to work with as we reconstruct our students’ misconceptions. Student working on an assignment from a unit in STC™. Photo by Smithsonian Science Education Center.

  • Is there an ocean below your feet?

    Posted by Julia Rothchild on Tuesday, October 14, 2014 ( 0 )
    A piece of synthesized ringwoodite, the blue mineral that may contain oceans’ worth of water in the Earth’s mantle.Image courtesy of Some scientists think Earth’s oceans formed when icy comets hit the planet. But new research suggests a different origin for the oceans: they simply seeped out of the center of the Earth. The finding, published in Science, suggests that a reservoir of water is hidden in the Earth’s mantle, more than 400 miles below the surface. Try to refrain from imagining expanses of underground seas: all this water, three times the volume of water on the surface, is trapped inside rocks. Called ringwoodite, the rock is bright blue and is only formed at high temperature and pressure in the Earth’s mantle. The water would have been squeezed out of the rocks, “almost as if they’re sweating,” Steven Jacobsen of Northwestern University told The New Scientist.

  • 2014 4-H National Youth Science Day Preview

    Posted by Kittrina Thompson on Friday, October 03, 2014 ( 0 )
    With less the one week remaining, anticipation is rising for the2014 4-H National Youth Science Day, taking place October 8, 2014. The seventh annual science event explores the ins and outs of aerospace engineering with the 2014 National Science Experiment,Rockets to the Rescue! To get you prepped for this exciting 4-H event, here is what you need to know about this year's4-H NYSD!

  • Smithsonian Science How Returns

    Posted by Ashley Deese on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 ( 0 )
    Smithsonian Science Howis back with an all-new series of webcasts! This year, teachers can bring more Smithsonian scientists into the classroom through a live television-style program that is streamed through the web. These webcasts air twice in one day, at 11am EDT and 2pm EDT. The live show format allows for students to interact with the scientist in real-time. Students can join the show by submitting questions, participate in fun quizzes, and engage in polls. The scientist will also answer student questions on air throughout the webcast. This gives students the opportunity to interact with these scientists without ever leaving the classroom. Once the webcast has aired, your students can explore the topics from the webcast further with the provided classroom activities, lessons, and readings. Resources from ourSTC™curriculumare also included. There are a variety of topics for the webcasts. Check out thescheduleto find one that fits into your lesson plans. Or watch them all!

  • LASER i3 Summer Professional Development Prepares for Sustainability in Houston

    Posted by Dana Bulba on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 ( 0 )
    Over the past four years, the SSEC has immersed itself in a $35+ million U.S. Department of Education Investing in Innovation (i3) grant: the “LASER i3” project. With a full-time team of roughly 8, the SSEC has been implementing its approach to science education (the LASER model) in 125 schools across northern New Mexico, North Carolina, and Houston, Texas. While roughly half the schools have actively taken part in all aspects of the SSEC’s LASER model – from taking part in Strategic Planning Institutes (SPIs) to receiving science materials and teacher training – the other half has been carrying out their science programs as usual. All the while, the Center for Research in Educational Policy (CREP) at the University of Memphis collected data in order to validate the program … What are students learning? Do attitudes differ between the schools? What works and doesn’t work? The schools the SSEC has actively worked with over the past several years are classified as “Phase 1” schools, and the schools that have been involved in the research component only are classified as “Phase 2” schools. Fifth grade HISD teachers conduct an investigation in the Level 1 Motion & Design training. One of the main goals of the LASER i3 program is to sustain the program within the regions. And, even though the 2014 – 2015 school year marks the end of the funding period, nearly 500 Houston teachers representing 49 Phase 1 and Phase 2 Houston Independent School District (HISD) schools dedicated part of their summer break to bettering their science teaching this summer. The sense of possibility, dedication, and excitement was palpable among the science teachers.

  • A Teacher's Perspective

    Posted by Chrissy Romero on Friday, September 05, 2014 ( 0 )
    The following blog was written by LASER i3 New Mexico teacher and Site Coordinator Chrissy Romero. Ms. Romero teaches at Gonzales Community School in Santa Fe, New Mexico and has been an immeasurable asset to the LASER i3 project since the first summer of training in 2011. Ms. Romero has demonstrated exceptional commitment to the program; she has supported and trained her fellow teachers, and she has been involved as both participant and faculty member at leadership development institutes. The SSEC would like to thank Ms. Romero for her dedication and for sharing her reflections on LASER i3 with us. The Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC) recently hosted the LASER i3 Strategic Planning Institute (SPI) for New Mexico LASER i3 schools at the Sheraton Uptown in Albuquerque. As we approach the last year of the grant, the focus was on creating strategic plans that would help school districts continue inquiry science in the future. It was apparent from the participation and excitement that we have come a long way since the first teacher trainings in 2011. Chrissy Romero (at left) looks on as participants at the 2014 NM SPI begin the “Change Game,” a research-based simulation to gain strategies for effecting change in a school system.

STEMVisions highlights ideas, best practices, research and successes in science education.