The new CoSTEM 5-year Strategic Plan was released at the White House on Tuesday December 4th, "Charting a Course for Success: America's Strategy for STEM Education." Dr. Carol O'Donnell, Director of the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC)--and a member of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) SubCommittee on Federal Coordination in STEM Education (FC-STEM)--was one of many cross-agency authors of the plan. Smithsonian Secretary Skorton sits on the NSTC Committee on STEM (CoSTEM) and was one of the speakers at the event.
The data is clear: McKinsey reported late in 2017 that the future of labor will “create demand for millions of jobs by 2030…[and] these trends include…[an] investment in technology, infrastructure, and buildings…” McKinsey estimates that almost 400 million global workers will need to learn new skills in response to the predicted rapid automation adoption.
Before this information was made available, it was clear STEM education is critical to everyone’s future, and the company I work for, Jacobs (who recently acquired CH2M, where I have been employed for nearly 15 years) is showing up in these spaces.
People once thought the red panda, also known as the lesser panda, was related to bears or raccoons, but they are actually their own genus, Ailuridae. Within the genus, there are two species: fulgens fulgens and fulgens refulgens. Both species live in Eastern Asia, in high-altitude, temperate forest.
Red pandas are especially cute*. They grow to be 22-24 inches with a 14-18 inch tail and weigh 8-13 pounds, which is roughly similar to a large house cat. Red pandas have russet and white fur with distinct face markings. Their fur is very thick on their body and tail, which helps keep them warm in the mountainous habitat.
A red panda at Smithsonian's National Zoo. Katie Fancher, Smithsonian Science Education Center
The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is home to some of the most valuable jewels on the planet. To me, the best ones in the museum aren’t in the Gems and Minerals exhibition. The most colorful, dazzling jewels in the museum have wings, and they are in the Butterfly Pavilion!
Located on the second floor of the museum, the Butterfly Pavilion is home to approximately 40 different species of vibrantly colored butterflies and moths. It is an interactive oasis, allowing visitors an up-close experience with hundreds of these winged creatures.
I’ve teamed up with Arthur Earle, the Volunteer Coordinator at the O. Orkin Insect Zoo and the Butterfly Pavilion, to give you the inside scoop on this hot spot. Yes, a pest management company actually sponsors the Insect Zoo. Let that sink in for a minute.
(I’m a former volunteer in the exhibition, so I’ve thrown in some insider tips here and there.)
My sweaty forehead is helping supply this butterfly with nutrients. Logan Schmidt, Smithsonian Science Education Center
Still preparing for the new school year? We've got you covered! We have curriculum, professional development, and digital media resources to help you start the new school year off right!
Smithsonian Science for the Classroom
Curriculum | Grades 1-5
Smithsonian Science for the Classroom was designed from the ground up to meet the Next Generation Science Standards.
Smithsonian Science for the Classroom is a new curriculum developed by the Smithsonian Science Education Center. It is designed to engage, inspire, and connect your students firsthand to the world around them. The curriculum has been developed in consultation with teachers and field tested in a range of schools with diverse populations. It draws on the latest findings and best practices from educational research.
For decades, the Smithsonian Science Education Center has been a leader in providing curriculum, professional development, and leadership development in support of inquiry-based science education.
Have you ever considered mosquitoes and the illnesses they transmit from an ethical perspective? For example, do you think it’s ethical to kill all mosquitoes if that would protect humans from mosquito-borne diseases? You could also consider the issue from an environmental or social perspective. Should travel be restricted for people leaving countries where mosquito-borne diseases are currently present? Perhaps you have never thought about mosquitoes in these contexts. More than likely, you might have considered the economic cost of mosquitos, either to prevent them from biting you or to treat an illness caused by a mosquito-borne disease. But what about these other perspectives? Are they not also equally important to consider when working toward local and global solutions? If we only consider the economic impact of mosquitoes, we will never truly address all of the complexities within the global challenge to ensure health for all from mosquito-borne diseases. This is the issue students from across the globe will address with Mosquito!, the Smithsonian Science Education Center’s new curriculum module.
Mosquito! Community Research Guide: How Can We Ensure Health for All from Mosquito-borne Diseases? Smithsonian Science Education Center
From July 8th to 13th, 2018, 17 educators from all over the country came to Washington, DC, to participate in this year’s Energy Smithsonian Science Education Academy for Teachers (SSEAT). Californians, Texans, and Washingtonians alike spent the week going behind the scenes of Smithsonian museums and facilities to learn more about the history of energy, current energy production and consumption, and alternative forms of energy for today and the future. The week was a whirlwind of experiences at Smithsonian museums and other field trips. Participants saw the exhibitions of the National Museum of American History and the backrooms of the National Museum of Natural History, the neutron research facility of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and test drives in a fleet of electric and hydrogen fuel vehicles provided by the Electric Vehicle Association of Greater Washington, DC. These trips were supplemented by the expert knowledge of researchers and scientists from the Smithsonian, the Naval Research Laboratory, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US Department of Energy, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology who provided in-depth information on the complexities of energy.
The station director gives a presentation about the operation of a power plant. Smithsonian Science Education Center
Sometimes there is nothing more refreshing than a cold drink. You walk into a restaurant, get your plastic cup of soda, and stab a plastic straw through the lid. The drink is gone in probably an hour at the most, but that cup and straw will be hanging around in a landfill or ocean long after that.
What is it?
What are these things made of that make them stick around for so long? Most drinking straws are made out of polypropylene, a commonly used polymer. A polymer is a very long chain of molecules all bonded together. Most plastics that you use are polymers. Polypropylene is made using propylene gas, a fuel made up of hydrogen and carbon atoms. The gas goes through a chemical reaction (polymerization), and a lot of the propylene molecules form one very long chain called polypropylene. This makes your drinking straws. Another polymer is polyethylene terephthalate. This is the plastic in soda bottles and is made of long chains of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms.
How do we use it?
Plastic has become a large part of our life ever since it came into popular use in the 1960s. It is used everywhere, from hospitals to shoes to food containers. It is inexpensive and easy to shape and use in a variety of ways. Medical use of plastic allows for making better artificial limbs. Sterile plastic packaging cuts down on the risk of infections. Plastic in the home keeps our houses at more reasonable temperatures and cuts down on energy costs. Using plastic to preserve food keeps it good and fresh for longer.
But with all this plastic use, where does it all go after we are done with it? Plastic can’t decompose like other natural materials. In the future, there will be a need to make better plastics and be more careful with how we use it.
Plastic syringes for medical use. Airman 1st Class Dillon Audit, United States Air Force
Imagine you are asked to design a zoo exhibit for your local zoo. I know, this is a stretch but "bear" with me! Let’s break it down into the steps you might take if this were an engineering project. As with any engineering problem, the first thing you need to know are the requirements. Requirements are made up of criteria and constraints.
Step 1: Understand the criteria and constraints
You need to decide how you are going to measure the success of your zoo exhibit design: the criteria. Will it be the number of visitors that stop at your exhibit or how long they stop? Do you want criteria that show visitors have learned something? Do you want to know if you motivated people to do something about conservation? Do you want a way of measuring how satisfied visitors are with their experience? No one wants to see an empty exhibit space at a zoo, so you may want to decide on a percentage of time that animals are visible as a measure of visitor satisfaction.
You will want your exhibit to give visitors a positive impression of the zoo. How will you measure this? Mark Van Bergh, Smithsonian’s National Zoo
Do you know an engineer? Do you know what she does? There are many types of engineers. Your dad might design the heating and air-conditioning system for a military base. That college student down the street? She’s doing a summer internship at the Smithsonian Institution surveying which buildings meet sustainability goals. Your math teacher may have designed rockets for NASA before he decided to teach. My husband once designed computer software that a different company used to design diaper pails.
Many employers, like the Smithsonian, offer engineering internship opportunities. Image: Smithsonian
The Honey Hollow Watershed Conservation Area was created in 1939 in eastern Pennsylvania. It was formed by five families who owned farmland along the Honey Creek. They were concerned because their fields were washing away. The erosion of their fields was caused by farming methods, especially cultivation by machinery. With support from the regional Soil Conservation Service, the Honey Hollow Project became a model of cooperative efforts to conserve soil, water, wildlife, and, ultimately, farmland. Honey Hollow Watershed was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1969.
Crooks farmhouse. Image: Crook’s House- NPS, National Register collection
Editors note: Citizen Science Day on April 14, 2018. is an electronic field guide developed by Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution. The app includes images of leaves, flowers, fruit, petiole, seeds, and bark from different tree species, and features visual recognition software that helps users identify a species of tree by uploading images of a leaf. It shares data uploaded by users, including the location and species, with scientists mapping the distribution of flora across the country and lets users view species documented in their area. Leafsnap is a great tool to use for
For years I’ve been fascinated by Leafsnap, a free app produced by the Smithsonian that lets users in the US and Canadian northeast identify trees by snapping pictures of their leaves. I live and teach in a downtown neighborhood and pass hundreds of trees every day on my walk to school. Sadly, other than the distinctive maple and some oaks, I could never tell one from another: they were just filed under the broad domain of “trees”. I’ve always admired environmentally literate folks who can distinguish between different species and better articulate their surroundings. Fortunately, since I discovered Leafsnap, I now make the occasional stop to identify a tree that catches my eye and educate myself, a lifelong city dweller, on what Frank Loyd Wright called “our best friend on earth.”
Editor's Note: This article first appeared on EducationNC.
When you were a student, did you see a teacher that looked like you standing in front of your class? Chances are if you are a person of color the answer is no. In North Carolina, over 80 percent of the teachers are white, while under 50 percent of the student population is white, according to data from the Department of Public Instruction.
In September, an enthusiastic group of teachers and Johnson & Johnson volunteers participated in the first stage of a collaboration that is bringing hands-on STEM2D learning to 240 students throughout Panama. Teachers and volunteers gathered at the Johnson & Johnson offices in Panama City for two days of professional development (PD) that focused on integrating this learning using the STC Rocks and Minerals unit.
From June 18th through the 23rd, 18 teachers from across the country gathered in Washington, DC, to learn about biodiversity at this year’s Biodiversity Smithsonian Science Education Academy for Teachers, or SSEAT. The participants went behind the scenes at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, spent time in the museum’s Q?rius Lab, and traveled to Edgewater, Maryland, to visit the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. Throughout the week, teachers were able to explore fields such an entomology, paleobiology, ecology, scientific illustration, and ornithology with Smithsonian scientists and researchers as well as experts from the U.S. Department of Energy, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
An important theme throughout the Biodiversity SSEAT was how numerous fields of study are interrelated with the sciences. In particular, there was a focus on the integration of the arts with STEM (the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), which creates the concept of STEAM. Although the concept of STEAM was present throughout the week, it was most prevalent during Sally Bensusen’s session called “Integrating STEM and the Arts.” Working as a scientific illustrator for over 30 years, Ms. Bensusen had a variety of techniques and activities to share with the teachers.
Sally Bensusen instructs a participant on how to use a microscope for scientific illustration.
Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” During the week of July 24-28th at the 2017 K–12 Science Education Institute for Leadership Development and Strategic Planning, seven teams consisting of district and school administrators, teachers, and community members became the pilots of change. Committed to implementing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) into their school communities, each team had the task of devising a 5-year strategic plan using the Smithsonian Science Education Center’s Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform (LASER) model. With sessions led by both Smithsonian Science Education Center staff and experienced faculty from around the country and beyond, these schools and districts became equipped to change the lives of their students.
What an experience! I recently participated in the Smithsonian Science Education Academy for Teachers on Biodiversity, a week-long professional development program, and all I can say is “WOW!” Once I arrived in Washington, D.C. I realized that I was in for an unbelievable educational and personal experience.
Digital technology is quickly becoming a central part of our lives. But in our digital world, we cannot lose sight of the importance of tactile experiences in a science classroom. Dr. Carol O’Donnell argues that it’s not about resisting the shift to digital, instead, it is about finding ways for object-driven learning and digital learning to complement one another.
Summer vacation is often filled with fun activities but did you know that, on average, students lose two months worth of academic progress over the break? This is referred to as the “Summer Slide,” or the tendency for students to lose some of the achievement gains they made during the previous school year. In order to combat this, we have provided a list of free educational games to keep your student engaged and excited about learning all summer long!
Have you had a chance to check out Showbiz Safari in the SSEC Game Center? In this life science game, students take on the role of assistant casting director for Walrus! He has three kinds of movies to cast – but different roles require different kinds of organisms! Using their knowledge of diverse plant and animal life, students must make sure that Walrus casts the prefect character for each of his movies. Keep reading to learn more about some of the super cool organisms from the game!
The following blog was written by Dr. Reagan Flowers. Dr. Flowers is CEO of C-STEM and a member of the "Steering Committee" of experts on minority participation in teaching careers. She both presented at and helped to recruit teams of educators for the 2017 Teacher Leadership Summit sponsored by Shell Oil Company and hosted at Howard University in February.
The following blog was written by DCPS teacher Jonte Lee. Mr. Lee teaches at Woodrow Wilson Senior High School in the District of Columbia and brought a team of fellow educators to the 2017 Teacher Leadership Summit sponsored by Shell Oil Company and hosted at Howard University in February. The summit guided teams in creating logic models for attracting, retaining, and developing a diverse STEM teaching workforce.
More than 300 educators from across Central New York converged on Nov. 8 for a "Lesson Study Elementary Science Conference"--perhaps the first of its kind in the US--that offered four “live” research lessons based on SSEC units in which students and teachers engaged in practices aligned with New York's State new science standards while participants observed and took notes.
The Director of the Smithsonian Science Education Center, Dr. Carol O’Donnell, and the Director of Professional Services, Amy D'Amico, PhD held a seminar in Mexico City November 16 and 17, 2016. This seminar, hosted by INNOVEC, was a transcendent event in many ways.
The Smithsonian Science Education Center is excited to host guest bloggers Sharon Dotger, Associate Professor of Science Education in the School of Education at Syracuse University, and Jessica Whisher-Hehl, Science Coordinator for OCM BOCES’ Center for Innovative Science Education!
Fall 2016 National Advisoary Board Meeting
The Smithsonian Science Education Center held its fall national advisory board events which included a materials center tour, board dinner and board meeting in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina, one of the states where SSEC tested the efficacy of its Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform (LASER) model. The tour was held on Monday, October 17th at the Johnston county industries materials center (JCI) in Selma, NC.
The Neville-Pribram Mid-Career Educators Awards allow mid-career educators to be in residence and utilize the Smithsonian Libraries distinctive collections, focusing on science, history, culture and arts. The awards are open to middle & high school teachers, college teachers, and museum educators working on curriculum development or publications in print or electronic form. The Library offers excellent resources for developing curricula relating to Common Core, Core Arts Standards, and Advanced Placement curricula.
The Smithsonian Libraries is pleased to offer a call for applicants for the 2017 Neville-Pribram Mid-Career Educators Award. The National Museum of Natural History Library is the host library for the selected 2017 Educator. The National Museum of Natural History Libraries consists of the main location (on the 1st floor and basement of the NMNH's East Court) and 11 specialized collections throughout the NMNH building totaling more than 500,000 volumes. These collections are located within the NMNH Entomology, Invertebrate Zoology, Botany, Vertebrate Zoology, Mineral Sciences and Paleobiology departments.
We’re sure that you’ve played (and can’t stop playing) our physical science game BumperDucks. In case you haven’t, here’s the gist: in BumperDucks your job is to help a wayward band of ducks reach their final destinations – tasty treats! With the help of collisions and rebounding you can slingshot these ducks to victory. BumperDucks is all about the laws of motion and how we can utilize their effects once we figure out how they work!
The Smithsonian Science Education Center teamed up with the South Carolina Coalition for Mathematics and Science and the South Carolina Afterschool Alliance to host the 2016 Next Steps Institute in Charleston, SC on September 26-28th. Close to 300 individuals and teams from across the country came together to gain advanced leadership training in one of seven different Pathway topics. Dr.
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