Strengthening STEM Practices   
  February 2014
In This Issue
Random Acts of Kindness
Astronomer Offerings
Tech Guidelines for Principals
Q&A with a Tech Principal
STEM Interest for Girls

Congratulations to CEI Research Survey Winners

CEI is pleased to announce the
three winners of the drawing held for discounts to workshops and the Kindle Paperwhite.

Julie Martin-Beaulieu, Principal of Keeney Street School, in Manchester, CT is the grand prize winner and will be receiving a Kindle Paperwhite.

Elizabeth Ness, Principal with Minneapolis Public Schools, and Patrick Boodey, Principal of Woodman Park Elementary School in  Dover NH, each won 20% discounts on CEI workshops.

Thanks again
to the 152 respondents to our survey.
We have tabulated the results, which we urge you to read here.


Random Acts of Kindness Week
FEB 10-16

   Surprise others with good works.

hair, cars, time, goods.
someone's toll or the grocery bill for
an elderly  woman.
a child a hug.
a neighbor's lawn.
And here are more ideas.

Want more
STEM information?
Check the newsletter from the CEI archives on STEM and School Resources.

STEM facts to share

21% of girls say their parents encourage them to become an actress, while 10% of girls say their parents have encouraged them to think about an engineering career.
-Harris Interactive for the American Society for Quality, 2009

There has been a 79% decline in the number of 1st year undergraduate women interested in a Computer Science major between 2000 and 2011.
-NCWIT, 2012

In 2008, 12% of bachelor's degrees in science and engineering, 3% of master's degrees in science and engineering, and <1% of doctorate degrees in science and engineering were awarded to minority women.
-NSF, 2011


Dear Educators,                        

While schools have miles to go before achieving goals for advancing student learning with STEM (Science Technology, Engineering, and Math), there are many schools that are making significant headway. One of the most exciting STEM advances is the collaboration that is occurring with scientists and engineers partnering with schools to advance student interest and knowledge.

In this edition of Wow! we take a glimpse at some schools that are at the forefront in the use of technology. We have interviewed one principal to learn about how she keeps abreast of all the apps and other technologies. We also share what we learned from a meeting with Astronomer Kevin Manning, we ask for your help reviewing a 21st Century Technology Guide for school administrators, and we showcase the National Girls Collaborative Project, which is working in 39 states to encourage girls' involvement with STEM


Going Where No Man [sic] Has Gone Before:
Kevin Manning, Astronomer
by Carolyn Lieberg 


Kevin Manning, tour guide to the stars, is nothing if not impassioned about his mission. "Mission" - a word that suggests "Apollo" - which reminds him of meeting astronaut Jim O'Neill, the man who brought the ill-fated Apollo 13 ship safely back to earth in 1970.


Kevin's goal, perhaps less dramatic than Apollo, but no less ambitious, is to bring the excitement and wonder of astronomy to the minds and hearts of people who are not inclined to pay much attention to the science.

  • He reaches people in a number of ways, from speaking to groups of all ages through schools, libraries, and civic organizations, to sharing experiences with students, teachers and school leaders.
  • His media show transports viewers from their seats into the vast spaces far beyond earth.
  • He describes how stars are born, what sunspots do, and how Galileo turned the ideas of Ptolemy  upside down. And Kevin does it all in high-tech color illustrations and animations or videos, with the excitement of a presenter who has just made those discoveries this morning! He is not the least complacent about the dazzling whips of aurora borealis lights rising across the screen nor the remarkable travels of Voyager I and II (Did you know there are "live" odometers on a NASA page)?   


Kevin will remind you of the numbers long ago seared into your memory -- light at 186,000 miles per second and the sun, 93 million miles away. Then he'll dazzle you with compounded figures that push the numbers into new perspectives to boggle the imagination. And he has visuals that underscore and delight.


Learning with Kevin Manning. Lots of learning goes on: What are the two factors influencing the 20 nearest and the 20 brightest stars? How is it that we are actually moving in six different ways simultaneously and constantly? Did you know that the Keck Observatory in Hawaii is located on the highest place in the Northern Hemisphere? Oh, there are lots of crackling neurons in Kevin's presentations and workshops.


Listening to his enthusiasm for the topic, one could imagine that, given enough hours in the day, he would happily speak to everyone in the nation, and their hearts and minds would indeed be engaged. "When I see a person, whether eight years old or 90, look through a telescope and see with their own eyes, for the first time, the rings of Saturn, they gasp! It's an astonishing experience."


Robotic Telescopes and MicroObservatory Experiences. Several of Kevin's workshops always seem to thrill his audience. Via any classroom computer, students can guide a robot telescope to snap a picture of a constellation, a nebula, or any of the items on a long list of astronomical wonders. At the appropriate hour, which the robot is programmed to use, the device aims at the astral object and snaps a photograph. Then the image is sent back to the classroom. A color version is also available. (The website provides more details.)


Kevin came to his present position through a mix of a not uncommon path --being a science teacher--with his obvious talent and some good fortune: acceptance as an Einstein Fellow. He had a rich career in astronomy, consulting with NASA and other places, such at the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the Brookhaven National Laboratory. His "retirement" continues to be occupied with presentations and activities that are fueled by his passion for astronomy.


Engaging Youth with Science. If you are looking for ways for students and teachers to be engaged with Science (or STEM), consider Kevin's approach. For example, he invites groups to "imagine the characteristics of an airless world." Or he asks them to imagine what will happen if you "light a piece of paper that is in a  thin-necked bottle, with a hard-boiled egg resting on top?"  Then he demonstrates the answer as the egg is sucked into the bottle. One of his books, The Complete Guide to Building Your Own 8-inch Telescope (that's eight inches in diameter; the object itself is about eight feet tall), instructs users so clearly that, he says, "A third-grader can follow the instructions." And then Kevin shows a slide of a young smiling boy standing next to his smiling mother. The Florida pair has traveled to eight locations to watch and learn from his presentation. Also in the picture: the telescope that this third-grader built.




Kevin hopes to promote active interest in astronomy not just for science classes, but in a variety of disciplines. The sky, after all, is not just for scientists. Art, literature, music, and inventions of many types have been inspired by things above the horizon.


His website, Look Up to the Stars, is loaded with images and with information about his presentations. As he's wrapping up, he confesses that he's a Trekkie. Of course. The inveterate astronomer was apprehensive about the recent revival of Star Trek, but he was not disappointed and urges the audience to go. "See the second one, for sure!"


 Note: CEI is now partnering with Kevin Manning to provide workshops and technical assistance to schools.

21st Century Technology Guidelines for Principals
By Christine Mason (and Victoria Zelvin)     

Schools are facing the impossible task of trying to stay abreast of the current technologies, of trying to integrate the best technology practices in their schools while they are doing the 101 other things that must be done in schools, each and every day. 


Which apps are the must-haves? Which are reliable enough to be of value?  If you are like me, you may approach an app, fully intent on uploading it to your cell, only to discover that it has only 2.5 stars and that readers have rated another similar app more highly. Each time I do this, I am frustrated that a 5-minute upload suddenly takes me at least 20 minutes of investigation. So many to choose from! 


CEI is trying to help principals by passing along technology information and resources we uncover. We are most interested in approaches that you have used and those that have a research base. We are also asking for your help.  Here are several ways you can assist us:

  • Share information on the apps and websites you love and appreciate and why.
  • Enlist your students and teachers in helping us identify MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), videoclips (YouTube and others), educational wikis, and the creative ways Moodle is being used in schools.  
  • Use these tips, which includes zootool in its baker's dozen, and pinterest to collect and organize sources.  
  • We have drafted technology guidelines for principals. These are not cut-in-stone, perfect guidelines, but rather a place to start a conversation. We have built the guidelines based on some of the best resources available. We have also tried to keep them simple and manageable. Please review the guidelines, use them or give us feedback.  Our goal is to have a better set of guidelines, designed with your input, available by the end of 2014.
  • We are currently designing STEM technical assistance and research projects and are looking to develop a small team to help us with implementation.  

If you have information, would like to write a guest article or blog (check out our current postings), or are interested in following up with CEI on any or all of the above, please forward information to [email protected]

Q&A from Mantua - A Technology School in Fairfax, VA
by Jan-Marie Fernandez, Principal, and Jane Dunfee, School Based Technology Specialist


CEI recently posed questions to learn more about how Mantua Elementary School in Fairfax County, Virginia, is integrating technology into its academic programs.  


CEI: Your school is known as a technology school.  Can you tell us about some of the exciting technologies that are being used in your school?


Mantua: We use many different kinds of technology at our school. Here is a list: 

  • electronic whiteboard (SMARTboard) 
  • LCD projector and laptop
  • document cameras
  • digital cameras
  • iPads (math, language arts, art, social studies)
  • iPad apps and filming capabilities
  • Skype and devices to connect with students in Italy
  • Google Apps for Education in grades 3-6
  • The program, Finale, to learn to read and create music, some of which will be used on the Good Morning Mantua TV show (see below)


CEI: Could you describe a few of the activities students are doing with the technology?

Mantua: One of our first grade teachers is involved in a research project where he uses smart pens with his students to improve their reading and writing skills.

  • Recently, our fourth graders created biography boxes that included research, document creation, and QR code generation using Google Apps.


  • Every day fifth and sixth graders participate in the production of a live TV show (Good Morning Mantua) that is broadcast through a closed circuit system. The sixth grade anchors write the daily script and read it from a teleprompter. The fifth graders control the cameras, audio, special effects and teleprompter with minimal supervision. 
  • In fifth grade, students research cultures as part of a Global Awareness Project in which groups of students make use of Google Apps, Power Point, Photo Story, movie software and other media to formally present their research.  
  • Grades 1-6 use Turning Point response systems to engage students in formal and informal assessment of content. During drama productions students learn how to operate lighting and sound boards as part of the production crew.
  • This year we are participating in a neuroscience program to improve memory and attention. The program, Activate, was developed by Dr. Bruce Wexler, a neuroscientist from Yale University with whom CEI is collaborating. Activate focuses on developing students' executive functioning skills by working on specific cognitive strategies during computer games and through physical activities in PE.   


CEI: There are so many apps on the market today, how does your school make decisions about which apps to promote or to allow?


Mantua: Fortunately, since we are such a large school system, there is a group of central office technology specialists who look at new technology and determine acceptable apps. The list is dynamic as teachers research apps they think might be useful and submit them to the school system for approval. Teachers implement apps within their classroom instruction that align with specific curriculum or standards and that increase their student's level of engagement.  


CEI: Of all the apps that are being used at Mantua, which are most exciting, and why?


Mantua: The list changes each year as teachers attend professional development workshops and learn new applications and new ways to use familiar programs. This year our school is expanding its use of Google Apps for Education in all subject areas to empower students to be more creative and collaborative in their work. We are using the iPads across more grades this year to offer teachers and students a different tool to teach with, learn with, and show what they understand. We are also excited to be using newer versions of video editing and music software to allow our students to be more creative.  


CEI: Do you think that technology use is increasing student interest and engagement in learning?


Mantua: We feel that whenever you can teach information using a multimodality, interactive approach you have a much better chance of capturing student interest and engagement. We are in an age where facts and statistics are readily available at our fingertips and can easily be looked up online. Because of this, teachers need to help students to understand the stories behind these facts, which will help build connections and give content meaning.  When technology is used thoughtfully and creatively, it becomes invisible to the student and is simply a tool being used to help them learn and then demonstrate their understanding. (In the picture below, a Mantua student pauses while working on the Activate program.)




CEI: What about its impact on student achievement?


Mantua:We know that the ability to provide visual literacy using a multimodality approach makes a difference for many students. It improves understanding of content and increases the possibility of remembering what was taught. We also know that once a student has reached a minimum skill level with keyboarding, students' written output increases when using writing software versus pen and paper. Exposure to a myriad of new technologies provides our students with 21st century skills.  


CEI: Any words of advice for other principals?


Mantua: Teachers are only able to thoughtfully integrate technology into their teaching when they feel comfortable with the tool and they see that it increases student engagement and/or improves their teaching. But once a teacher discovers the magic of a particular piece of technology, it is critical that you, as the principal, figure out how to make sure that the teacher will have access to this tool in their classroom, because it is now a part of how they teach. It is also important that they build a community of learners who are early adopters, who then are able and willing to share their knowledge, expertise, and passion with others to extend its use.


It is also helpful to budget with technology in mind throughout the school year, participate in pilots or grants, and keep your eyes open for donations or free equipment/exchanges.


Read more at the CEI blog entry.  


STEM(ming) Science Interest for Girls
by Norrell Edwards, Ph.D. student at University of Maryland and CEI Intern

Looking for new ways to engage girls in STEM? Well, the National Girls Collaborative Project has resources galore available to help you in this mission. The NGCP works to bolster and bring together various "girl-serving STEM programs" across the country.  Two of their primary goals are  

  • Increasing "sustainability, organizational effectiveness and shared leadership"
  • Spreading k-12 counselors' access to resources that provide awareness of the hurdles between girls' interest and STEM

The national group encompasses 31 smaller collaboratives serving 39 states, which ultimately connect 12,800 organizations that STEMfully assist 7.8 million girls and 4.4 million boys.



Using the NGCP's online map, you can  locate the regional collaboratives and programs in your area.  
The NGCP's site provides organizations' contact details, needed resources and activities, available resources and activities, population served, collaboration interests, and delivery format.


For those wanting to initiate STEM programs, NGCP offers webinars, newsletters, statistics, stories, links and funding in the form of mini-grants. They also maintain a section on Exemplary Practices, which is broken down into subcategories of: Engaging Girls in STEM, Access and Equity, Collaboration and Evaluation and Assessment. The sections include numerous articles on relevant and helpful topics.  


One successful program that is highlighted is the Techbridge program, launched by the Chabot Space and Science Center in 2000. This program offers STEM opportunities to over 3000 girls from underrepresented communities. "Techbridge offers afterschool and summer programs that include hands on projects, career exploration, and academic and career guidance in science and engineering for girls in grades 5-12" (Mosatche, Matloff-Nieves, Kekelis, & Lawner, 2013). Programming in the field of engineering is especially important since males, ages ranging from grades k-12, are 6 times more likely to have taken engineering classes than female students.


Role Models and Field Trips. One of Techbridge's most promising strategies for replication is the use of role models and field trips in their STEM programs for girls. Using images of women professionals in STEM provides the real life connections with people in STEM careers, and it helps dispel the male stereotypes.    


Collaboration with Girl Scouts. A spin-off of this program, Girls Go Techbridge, created in 2008, reaches girls through Girl Scout councils across the country. The brilliance of this initiative is their "programs-in-a-box" given to Girl Scout camp facilitators. Thus, the facilitators can focus their time on implementation rather than researching and preparing activities. The current programs in a box are: Power it Up, Make It Green, Design Time, ThrillBuilders and Engineers to the Rescue. The program boxes include a detailed leader guide with tips for facilitators and parents and ideas for ways to involve role models. Prepared and packaged STEM activities is a great way to provide girls with ways to experiment and experience science, and incorporating STEM programing into a pre-existing and established, fun extracurricular activity that traditionally appeals to girls, like Girl Scouts, is an innovative way to encourage science.


The National Girls Collaborative Project is a storehouse of STEM sources for school leaders everywhere.    



Mosatche, H., Matloff-Nieves, S., Kekelis, L., & Lawner, E.K. (2013, spring) Effective STEM programs for adolescent girls. Afterschool Matters. p. 18   

Opening Doors with STEM 

 As we look to the future and consider ways to enhance student interest in the sciences, CEI is excited by doors that are being opened with new partnerships with scientists and engineers. We also realize that much work needs to be done, that not every school is prepared to jump wholeheartedly into STEM.  Schools need resources, updated equipment, professional development and technical assistance for staff, and a better understanding of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).  CEI will continue to research these issues and update you on best practices.


To help CEI help schools, contact us to showcase what you are doing, let us know about your progress and your needs. (And thanks to the 152 respondents to our recent survey -- of CEI's four areas of focus, STEM was ranked #1).



Christine Mason
Executive Director, Center for Educational Improvement
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