Making Friends With Failure

See the post on the new blog location: http://schoolpress.cshgreenwich.org/cshmsparents/wp-admin/

Advertisements

A Presidential Pat for Young Scientists

The New York Times

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

The president helped Payton Karr, left, and Kiona Elliot of Oakland Park, Fla., with their bicycle-powered water filtration system.

By ASHLEY SOUTHALL
Published: April 22, 2013

Praising the work of young scientists and inventors at the third White House Science FairPresident Obama on Monday announced a broad plan to create and expand federal and private-sector initiatives designed to encourage children to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

After browsing the 30 or so projects on display in the White House’s public rooms and the East Garden, Mr. Obama said he was committed to giving students the resources they need to pursue education in the disciplines, collectively known as STEM. Earlier, the White House announced efforts aimed at increasing participation in those fields, particularly among female and minority students, as well as those from low-income and military families.

“This is not the time to gut investments that keep our businesses on the cutting edge, that keep our economy humming, that improve the quality of our lives,” Mr. Obama told an audience in the East Room that included 100 students from 40 states, business leaders and science-minded celebrities, among them Bill Nye, the television host and science educator, and LeVar Burton, who appeared in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

“This is the time to reach a level of research and development that we haven’t seen since the height of the space race,” he said.

According to a summary in his 2014 budget request, Mr. Obama has designated $180 million for programs to increase opportunities for participation in STEM programs, from kindergarten through graduate school, for groups historically underrepresented in those fields.

An additional $265 million would be directed to support networks of school districts, universities, science agencies, museums, businesses and other educational entities focused on STEM education, and to finance the creation of a corps of master teachers. Of that, $80 million would go toward furthering the president’s goal of adding 100,000 math and science teachers over a decade.

The White House is promoting the programs as part of an “all hands on deck” effort that includes an AmeriCorps program that places volunteers in STEM-focused nonprofit organizations; a summer camp for children to design and build projects; a corporate mentorship program; and the expansion of a program to increase access to Advanced Placement courses for students in military families.

In an effort to reach more low-income students, AmeriCorps plans to place 50 volunteers in For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, or First, a nonprofit organization that sponsors robotics competitions and technology challenges. Technology companies including SanDisk and Cisco have formed the US2020 mentoring campaign with the goal of having at least 20 percent of the firms’ employees spending at least 20 hours a year mentoring or teaching by 2020.

This summer, the Maker Education Initiative will host Makers Corps for students to design and build projects that are personally meaningful.

Among the projects on display at the White House were a cloud computing program that improves cancer detection; a fully functional prosthetic arm that costs only $250 to build; an emergency water sanitation system powered by a bicycle; video game designs, which were included at the fair for the first time; and a robot shaped like an Etch A Sketch that paints with watercolors.

Sylvia Todd, 11, a sixth-grader from Auburn, Calif., who built the robot, explained to Mr. Obama and, later, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell that her project had been inspired by similar robots displayed at an earlier competition.

“Everyone was using pens and pencils, and I just wanted to get really creative,” she said.

Afterward, Sylvia summed up her experience: “mind-boggling.”

A version of this article appeared in print on April 23, 2013, on page A11 of the New York edition

3-D Printing Initiative in U.S. School Attracts International Visitors

Here’s an article on how middle school students in Virginia are using 3D printers.  Sacred Heart Greenwich students have designed and Printed many items via online CAD programs and our 3D printer.  Our faculty has also learned a great deal about the technology and we look forward to including more design and engineering work, via the 3D printer as we increase our Science Technology, Engineering and Math, STEM, offerings next year.

Stephanie Thrift, 14, attaches a wire coil onto the base of a stereo speaker that she and fellow students made using 3-D printing technologies at Buford Middle School in Charlottesville, Va. An initiative there teaches advanced manufacturing skills.
—Norm Shafer for Education Week

Initiative emphasizes science, engineering

By Bryan McKenzie, The Daily Progress (MCT)
Charlottesville, Va.

With a Japanese television news crew keeping close watch on a recent school day, Buford Middle School science students crafted their own sound speakers from plastic and paper. They did it using three-dimensional printers and computer-design software to produce plastic supports, paper cones, and other pieces.

“I think it’s interesting that they’re including 3-D computerization and printing into the education program at this level and what it means for the future of job training in the U.S.,” said Takashi Yanagisawa, a correspondent with Japan’s Nippon Television. “This is what President Obama talked of in his State of the Union address, about bringing technology into schools for job training.”

Mr. Yanagisawa and his colleagues are producing a segment for Japanese TV that will feature the class at the Virginia school as an example of efforts in the United States to bring more technology into schools.

“We’re in on the ground floor of bringing manufacturing and technology into the classrooms,” said James M. Henderson, the assistant superintendent for administration services for the 3,900-student Charlottesville city school system. “We’re participating with Piedmont Virginia Community College and the University of Virginia, and we hope to make this a 7th-through-12th-grade program. This is the start.”

The start is the result of a $300,000 state grant to create a “laboratory school for advanced manufacturing technologies.”

Carter Gillaspie, 14, examines a paper cone to be used in a stereo speaker that his group designed and built using 3-D printing technologies at Buford Middle School in Charlottesville, Va.
—Norm Shafer for Education Week

The school is a collaboration between the University of Virginia and its home city to teach science and engineering in public schools and prepare students for high-tech jobs. It also provides future teachers experience combining engineering concepts and traditional science education.

University officials hope the concept is eventually picked up by schools across the country.

Costs Drop

Eventually, advanced manufacturing-technology programs will be added at Jack Jouett Middle School in neighboring Albemarle County and in Charlottesville and Albemarle County high schools. The sites each will be linked to one another and the University of Virginia via videoconferencing.

Next school year, the lab school plans to offer courses to 500 or so 8th graders at the two middle schools. Each school year, a new grade level is scheduled to be added. High school students eventually would get the chance to study advanced manufacturing through double-enrollment with Piedmont Virginia Community College.

The price of 3-D printers has dropped sharply over the past two years, with machines that once cost $20,000 now at $1,000 or cheaper, educators said. Although they don’t expect printers to replace current factories, the engineering and technology behind the software and the devices will change how goods are made in the near future.

School officials say the classes will give students a boost in technological and manufacturing training and, therefore, a leg up in the job market upon graduation.

“We are committed to educating our young people and making sure their education is not just enough to pass tests but equip them with skills that will help them after graduation in the job market and help them contribute to the economy,” said Rosa S. Atkins, the Charlottesville superintendent.

Students also get hands-on science and mathematic instruction. Rather than learning math and science as abstract concepts, students can learn about them in action.

“Having a 3-D printer doesn’t do you much good if you don’t have the knowledge and ability to design the programs or the product and make it work for you,” said Glen Bull, a professor of instructional technology and co-director of the Center for Technology and Teacher Education at the University of Virginia.

Student-Created Products

At one table on a recent school day, 8th graders Ben Sties, Ben Ralston, and Nick Givens used University of Virginia-created software to design and print in plastic the support structure for a paper cone “woofer,” a speaker that enhances the bass sound in a stereo system.

“We did this first semester, and the first time we did it, we didn’t have all of the equipment,” Mr. Sties said. “We got to do some of it and we understood it, but it didn’t work nearly as well.”

The first-semester speaker didn’t woof, they said. Neither did it tweet. It simply vibrated.

“Making it with the 3-D printer makes a big difference. Now we can make a speaker that really makes sound,” said Mr. Givens.

The 3-D-printing equipment, software, and program guidelines come from the minds of University of Virginia professors in the school of education and the school of engineering and applied science. The goal, Mr. Bull said, is to develop coursework that can be replicated in schools nationwide.

“You have a group of professors and students in the rapid-prototyping lab [at the university] who are working on the curriculum and methodology with the idea of finding out how it can be taught and work well in most classroom environments,” Mr. Bull said.

And the concept might scale up beyond the United States.

“It’s something we probably should consider in our country as well,” said Mr. Yanagisawa, the Japanese correspondent.

Copyright (c) 2013, The Daily Progress, Virginia. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Girls Excel in the Classroom but Lag in Entry to 8 Elite Schools in the City

From The New York Times

An article about the small percentage of girls in NYC elite public schools.  Many of these schools concentrate in science and math.  Interestingly, according to the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools, girls who attend single-sex high schools are 3 times more likely to major in engineering in college, than girls who attended co-ed high schools.

Michael Appleton for The New York Times

Students at Brooklyn Technical High School on Friday; it is one of the eight specialized schools where girls are in the minority.

By Al Baker

In the United States, girls have outshined boys in high school for years, amassing more A’s, earning more diplomas and gliding more readily into college, where they rack up more degrees — whether at the bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral levels.

Multimedia

But that has not been the trend when it comes to one of the highest accomplishments a New York City student can achieve: winning a seat in one of the specialized high schools.

At all eight of the schools that admit students based on an eighth-grade test, boys outnumber girls, sometimes emphatically.

Boys make up nearly 60 percent of the largest and most renowned schools, Stuyvesant, the Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Tech, and as much as 67 percent at the High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at City College, according to city statistics.

While studies suggest that girls perform as well as boys in math and science classes in high school, their participation in those fields drops off in college and ultimately in careers, a phenomenon that the White House, with its Council on Women and Girls, and the National Science Foundation have tried to reverse.

The fact that girls are underrepresented in New York’s top high schools, which tend to be focused on math and science, and which have more than a dozen Nobel laureates among their alumni, worries some academics who see the schools as prime breeding grounds for future scientists and engineers.

“It is very suspect that you don’t have as many girls as boys in New York City’s specialized schools,” said Janet S. Hyde, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin who has published research on girls’ performance in math and science from elementary school through college. Individual girls might be losing opportunities, she said, “but it is also bad for society as a whole because in a global economy we need to identify the best scientists and mathematicians.”

The racial makeup of the schools has been a combustible issue for years — 5 percent of the students accepted this month into the elite schools were black, and 7 percent were Hispanic. Civil rights groups have argued that using a test as the sole basis of admission favors students with means to prepare for the test, and have pushed unsuccessfully to have the schools adopt additional criteria, like middle school grades, for admission.

The gender imbalance has not generated the same kind of protest. But several academics and analysts said the reliance on the test might also play a role in keeping girls out. While girls outperform boys on an array of academic benchmarks in high school and college, they still trail on standardized tests, like the SAT, according to federal Department of Education statistics.

This year, of those who took the Specialized High School Admissions Test, 51 percent were girls. But only 45 percent of those offered seats in the schools were girls.

To Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education policy group, the gap at the elite schools could be as elemental as their perception as havens for science, technology, engineering or math, making them a natural magnet for boys, just as girls might gravitate to schools known for humanities.

“I don’t think you’re looking at discrimination here,” said Mr. Finn, who, with Jessica A. Hockett, wrote the recent book, “Exam Schools: Inside America’s Most Selective Public High Schools.” “I think you’re looking at habit, culture, perceptions, tradition and curricular emphasis.”

Still, he said, New York’s experience runs against a national trend, in which enrollment in highly competitive high schools is 55 percent female. “The big gender-related chasm in American education these days is how much worse boys are doing, than girls,” he said.

Even the specialized schools with a focus on the classics and humanities, Brooklyn Latin and the High School of American Studies at Lehman College, now have a majority of male students. It was not always that way: Girls outnumbered boys at both schools until recently. American Studies has used the specialized admissions test since it opened a decade ago.

But in the first few years at Brooklyn Latin, founded in 2006, it had a broader admission policy based on grades and exams. Once it was made one of the specialized test schools, its population swung toward males.

“Sometimes, we see boys who are very bright, and can do well on an admissions test,” said Jason K. Griffiths, the principal. “But then I think the skills that a student needs to succeed in a school may be a little bit different.”

A corollary, perhaps, of the masculine leanings of the eight schools is the makeup of some of the elite high schools that do not use the specialized admissions test for admission.

At Fiorello H. La Guardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts, which admits students based on grades and auditions or portfolios of artwork, 73 percent of the students are girls. At Bard High School Early College, which has campuses in Manhattan and Queens, as well as at Millennium, Beacon and Townsend Harris High Schools, girls outnumber boys by at least 3 to 2.

Shael Polakow-Suransky, the chief academic officer in the city’s Education Department, said the eight specialized-test schools represented just a portion of the city’s best schools, so there was a flaw in studying gender disparities solely in those eight schools. “These are not the best schools in the city,” he said of the eight specialized schools. “They are among the best schools in the city.”

He said that at the highest echelons of test-takers, girls scored as well as boys, but that overall, fewer of the strongest female students were taking the exam.

“And the question is why,” he said. Girls, he said, “are choosing some of these other options, over the specialized schools, because they think it is better or they prefer not to take this exam.” Or, he added, “Perhaps there are other reasons that further research could shed light on.”

Students at the schools — boys and girls alike — said that they were not bothered by the imbalance, though it was sometimes noticeable. At Stuyvesant, Caroline Phado, 16, recalled how the five girls in her freshman swimming class were tickled watching 20 boys pile out of the locker room to join them. Kathryn Rafailov, 16, a junior, said boys so dominated her square-dancing class that they had to pair off with one another.

Students and administrators said girls held their own in the classroom, even when they were outnumbered. Several students at the High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering, a 436-student school housed at City College, said that a girl was the top student in three of the four grades.

Outside Townsend Harris, in Queens, where girls make up 70 percent of the student body, several girls said they were attracted by its more holistic admission policy, as well as its focus.

“I feel like, all the other schools, they mainly specialize in math and science, and, I don’t know, that doesn’t sound appealing to me,” said Ritika Modi, 16, a junior. She said she did not even apply to any specialized schools. Also, as a resident of Queens Village, she said, her parents “weren’t O.K.” with her commuting as far as Brooklyn or the Bronx, an issue several other girls noted.

Dr. Michael A. Lerner, the principal at Bard, said he has worked to find ways to balance classes. This year, for the first time, the dry-marker board he keeps in his office reflects a 50-50 split between boys and girls in the current ninth grade.

Of the 3,060 students who applied to his school this year, 44 percent were boys. To help rank the candidates, he said, he simply adjusted the focus of student interviews to more effectively draw boys out in describing their own strengths. This year he offered seats to 136 boys and 134 girls.

“Are we worried about getting unqualified boys?” asked Dr. Lerner. “No not at all.”

Sacred Heart Partners With Renowned Cold Spring Harbor Lab

From Greenwich Time:

 

Natalie Ponce, of Port Chester, N.Y., and Caitlan Fealing, 15, of Stamford, look at worms in an microscope during Dr. Bruce Nash, of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, meets with Upper School classes to discuss gene therapy at Convent of the Sacred Heart on Monday, October 15, 2012. Convent of the Sacred Heart is the third school, and the first Connecticut-based school, to become a charter member of the Cold Spring Harbor genetics lab. Photo: Helen Neafsey / Greenwich Time

 

There were more to the tiny worms that Convent of the Sacred Heart sophomores saw through microscopes than meets the eye.

On Monday, the students, part of the school’s science research program, were introduced to C. elegans, a worm used to study gene regulation and function. The students learned about how the worms formed the basis for cutting-edge research into aging and even cancer.

The lesson, given by visiting scientist Bruce Nash, kicked off a partnership between Sacred Heart and the world-renowned Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory‘s DNA Learning Center. The laboratory, across the Sound on Long Island, N.Y., was once run by James Watson, who, with Francis Crick discovered the double helix structure of DNA.

Sacred Heart is the first Connecticut school to become a charter member of the DNA Learning Center, joining The Chapin School and Trinity School in New York City.

Each student in the science research program works for three years on an independent project. Through the partnership, students interested in exploring genetics will have the opportunity to visit the laboratory as they work on projects.

“So many of them want to go into the medical field, and several of them mentioned genetics,” said Mary Musolino, director of the Upper School’s science research program. “That’s why it’s such a perfect fit.”

The charter membership also includes opportunities for field trips to the lab, as well as summer enrichment programs. The charter membership, which costs $25,000, was made possible by gifts from the school’s Parents’ Association and by the family of Indra Nooyi.

Through the partnership, Middle and Upper School students will receive instruction from the laboratory’s scientists, as the sophomores did Monday. Nash discussed C. elegans, which he referred to as “sort of like the fruit fly of the worm world” and which have cells that behave similarly to human cells.

The students examined petri dishes of regular worms and worms with genetic mutations through microscopes. Nash explained that in research, genes of the worm have been changed, extending their lives of just a few days by 15 times.

Sophomore Lily Pillari said she became interested in genetics after reading articles to help her come up with an idea for her research project.

“It was very informative,” Pillari, 15, said of the inaugural lesson with Nash.

Pillari’s classmate, Mo Narasimhan, said she hopes to one day study the role of genetics in mental disorders, such as anorexia.

“I’d done a little bit of reading on Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, but today’s discussion was very interesting,” said Narasimhan, 16.

Nash, co-author of the textbook “Genome Science,” mainly works with high school and undergraduate students doing independent research projects, and teaches labs and lectures to students, as well as instructors.

“I think they’re great because we can give a more direct link between the students and what researchers do,” Nash said of the partnerships between schools and the lab. “It gives students a good chance at actually doing some science and doing science with tools researchers are currently using.”

lisa.chamoff@scni.com; 203-625-4439; http://twitter.com/lchamoff

Read more: http://www.greenwichtime.com/news/article/Sacred-Heart-partners-with-renowned-N-Y-lab-3950947.php#ixzz29laTLI8j

“Insights From the Youngest Minds”

An interesting New York Times article about early learning:

By
Published: April 30, 2012

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Seated in a cheerfully cramped monitoring room at the Harvard University Laboratory for Developmental Studies, Elizabeth S. Spelke, a professor of psychology and a pre-eminent researcher of the basic ingredient list from which all human knowledge is constructed, looked on expectantly as her students prepared a boisterous 8-month-old girl with dark curly hair for the onerous task of watching cartoons.  The video clips featured simple Keith Haring-type characters jumping, sliding and dancing from one group to another. The researchers’ objective, as with half a dozen similar projects under way in the lab, was to explore what infants understand about social groups and social expectations.

Yet even before the recording began, the 15-pound research subject made plain the scope of her social brain. She tracked conversations, stared at newcomers and burned off adult corneas with the brilliance of her smile. Dr. Spelke, who first came to prominence by delineating how infants learn about objects, numbers, the lay of the land, shook her head in self-mocking astonishment.

“Why did it take me 30 years to start studying this?” she said. “All this time I’ve been giving infants objects to hold, or spinning them around in a room to see how they navigate, when what they really wanted to do was engage with other people!”

Dr. Spelke, 62, is tall and slim, and parts her long hair down the middle, like a college student. She dresses casually, in a corduroy jumper or a cardigan and slacks, and when she talks, she pitches forward and plants forearms on thighs, hands clasped, seeming both deeply engaged and ready to bolt. The lab she founded with her colleague Susan Carey is strewed with toys and festooned with children’s T-shirts, but the Elmo atmospherics belie both the lab’s seriousness of purpose and Dr. Spelke’s towering reputation among her peers in cognitive psychology.

“When people ask Liz, ‘What do you do?’ she tells them, ‘I study babies,’ ” said Steven Pinker, a fellow Harvard professor and the author of “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” among other books. “That’s endearingly self-deprecating, but she sells herself short.”

What Dr. Spelke is really doing, he said, is what Descartes, Kant and Locke tried to do. “She is trying to identify the bedrock categories of human knowledge. She is asking, ‘What is number, space, agency, and how does knowledge in each category develop from its minimal state?’ ”

Dr. Spelke studies babies not because they’re cute but because they’re root. “I’ve always been fascinated by questions about human cognition and the organization of the human mind,” she said, “and why we’re good at some tasks and bad at others.”

But the adult mind is far too complicated, Dr. Spelke said, “too stuffed full of facts” to make sense of it. In her view, the best way to determine what, if anything, humans are born knowing, is to go straight to the source, and consult the recently born.

Read more

“How the Google Science Fair Changed my Life

By Shree Bose, 17-year-old winner of the Google Science Fair

I have been competing in science fairs since I was in second grade. I can’t even remember a time when I wasn’t interested in science, so when I heard about the Google Science Fair, which opened last year, I had to see what it was all about. At that point, as a high school junior, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my future — whether or not I wanted to pursue research in college, or even if the research I was capable of would make an impact on the world. The Google Science Fair helped me answer those questions, and more. It was completely different from the science fair formats I was so familiar with, and turned out to be an experience that would change my life, and, hopefully, because of the visibility it gave my research, the lives of others as well.

My science fair project researched drug resistance and ovarian cancer. It was a topic I felt passionate about, and I found that I was able to work on it for hours on end and actually enjoy it. When it came time to submit my project, I was slightly terrified because I’d never made a website before, and the Google Science Fair accepts all submissions and conducts its preliminary judging entirely online via participant websites. Nonetheless, I sat down with Google Sites, put my entire project online (surprisingly, this was easier than I expected), and sent off the link to the Google Science Fair. After I hit “submit,” I realized I could build a website, and — even cooler — so could anybody else, anywhere in the world. Because submissions were accepted online, anyone in the world could participate, and when I went to the finalist event I found myself meeting kids from all across the globe.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shree-bose/post_2972_b_1388519.html?ref=women&ir=Women