Wow! Ed: Newsletter from the Center for Educational Improvment
STEAM in the Summertime
June 2016
In This Issue

Winners of CEI Drawing for Responding to CEI Survey on 21st Century Learning

Grand Prize Winner- Amazon Fire Tablet
Wayne A. Waugh, Assistant Elementary Principal Laurel Valley Elementary School, New Florence, PA

CEI Heart Centered Rubric
Kim Heil Librarian Fremont 25 Riverton, WY

Exam Performance Program
Margaret P. Kring Principal, Moseley Elementary School Putnam County Palatka, Fl


Orinthia Harris, Mary Woods, and Dr. Mason are presenting at the Fight for Children STEAM Conference for Early Childhood on June 22-23 in Washington DC


Webinar on CEI 21st Century Rubric was recorded and can be accessed here

Results of CEI Survey on 21st Century Learning available in July.

Dear Educators,

Summertime. What happens to student learning during these three months? With robotics and technology camps, students now have more options for hands-on activities that enrich their understanding. Growing in popularity too are STEAM summer camps. This issue of Wow! provides resources for teachers and principals to share with parents. Moreover, we believe that with the proliferation of summer STEAM camps, that schools must consider the implications of these programs for their school curricula.

Also in this issue of Wow! a detailed description of the Visioning and also Voices from the Field presentations that CEI is conducting with P21 and exemplary principals at the NAESP Annual Conference in July. And an article on preschool STEAM that provides a wealth of resources to assist with planning for summer and year round.
CEI to Present at NAESP Conference, July 6-7
Dr. Christine Mason will share the stage with Dr. Helen Soule, Executive Director of P21 and exemplary principals and principal-leaders at the NAESP Conference in National Harbor Maryland.

Christine Mason, Helen Soule, Aaron Brengard, Jillayne Flanders, Beth Lee, Greg Egnor, and Jaqueline Luzak

21st Century Exemplary Principals: Visioning, Planning, and Implementation Steps for School Leaders and Their Teams
Wednesday, July 06, 2016
3:30 PM - 4:45 PM
Location: Gaylord Convention Center
Room: Chesapeake F

What Works in Exemplary Schools? Voices From the Field
Thursday, July 07, 2016
3:30 PM - 4:45 PM
Location: Gaylord Convention Center
Room: Maryland 4
  • If you are interested in joining others in visioning about 21st Century Learning, hearing from exemplary leaders in elementary education, and problem solving about the barriers to moving forward join us in July.
  •  If you are interested in such 21st Century solutions as Dream Flight simulators, Makerspace, robotics, heart centered education, early childhood education, and 21st Century IB programs, don't miss these complementary sessions at the Annual Conference of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. 
CEI is thrilled that P21 is joining with us for these stimulating, informative, and thought-provoking sessions.

Wednesday's Session on Visioning (3:30-4:45)

Discover how the Center for Educational Improvement and P21 are helping America's principals scale-up for 21st Century leadership. We will share our visions; how we network with principals, communities and businesses; and practical tools to guide schools. Featuring Principal Brengard and his success story from P21 Exemplar Katherine Smith school.
  • CEI has collaborated with principal leaders over the past six years to develop and refine an interactive rubric for implementing 21st Century learning. This tool is now available from Thrivist and Class, companies whose rubrics are shared with over 1000 schools in the US and internationally.
  • The P21 Framework for 21st Century Learning guided the development of P21's Exemplar program recognizing over 40 leading schools around the country. Each organization will address its tools and methods.
  • Aaron Brengard, the Principal of P21 Exemplar Katherine Smith school, will present a brief videoclip and discuss the path that led to P21 recognition and hands-on learning taking center stage at a school with high minority, low income students, showing how 21st century learning benefits all kids.
  • Principals will be guided in a process to vision their school as a 21st Century School.
  • Principals will be provided tools to use at their schools to assess their journey to embed 21st century learning.
  • Participants will leave with a template for visioning and developing an action plan.

The 21st Century Exemplary Schools Panel on Thursday (3:30-4:45)

A panel of four Principal Leaders will share insights on 21st century education, presenting highlights from their learning communities and addressing audience questions. Will consider how to overcome barriers, obtain buy-in, gear up with the technical assistance and professional development, and what the new ESSA law has in store.

Schools that are at the forefront in 21st Century Learning have implemented specific strategies to overcome barriers to a 21st Century approach to learning. Four exemplary principal leaders will explain their approaches:
  • Jillayne Flanders, M.Ed., Executive Director of the Massachusetts' Elementary School Principals Association, will share her approaches to Early Childhood and Heart Center Education (Social Emotional Learning);
  • Dr. Gregory Egnor will share information on their Dream Flight Simulator, innovative approach to mathematics, and process of inquiry-based design.
  • Beth Lee, M.Ed., a national board certified educator and principal will share highlights from Bate Middle School, a P21 Exemplar School.
  • Dr. Jacqueline Luzak will share insights from Montgomery Middle School, a P21 Exemplar School and MYP International Baccalaureate program.

The objectives are (1) Share insights on being and becoming a 21st Century Exemplary Principal/School Leader (2) Share insights on implementing 21st Century Learning under ESSA, and (3) Problem solve with the audience in a structured dialogue process to address barriers and steps to strengthening 21st Century Learning (including STEM, neuroscience, social emotional learning, and principal leadership). 
Summer STEAM
By Grace Rubenstein, CEI Intern
 Teaching STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) is especially critical to encouraging children to pursue these fields. The artistic component ensures students take a creative approach to problems, giving them the skills to one day be successful in finding innovative solutions to the world's challenges.

Considerations for Principals and Teachers

Summer provides an ideal time to further children's investigation of STEAM. When principals and teachers are planning STEAM instruction, it is useful for them to plan with some insight into the array of STEAM activities that are available outside the classroom. During summer, more and more communities are offering STEAM camps. Some of these are even offered as collaborative ventures between schools and community or private organizations.

Examples of STEAM Summer Camps

For an online catalog of some of the science camps and classes offered in any given location, visit

Goddard School Camps. Some camps can be found through The Goddard School for Early Childhood Development, which has locations in 36 states. Their summer sessions focus on a variety of themes, including but not limited to geology, kitchen chemistry, astronomy, robotics, coding, acting, and music. Following are two examples from the Goddard School camps:

In the astronomy-themed course titled "Out of This World," campers will learn about star constellations and how interplanetary travel works. They will then simulate a trip to Mars, all within the confines of their classroom on planet Earth! 

Or, if they prefer to keep their feet on this planet, they can take "Epic Explorers" and dive into all the layers of the Earth. In this geology-based class, the little scientists will investigate why steamy, gooey lava comes soaring from colossal volcanoes.

iDTech Camps. iDTech sponsors a lengthy assortment of summer camps at over 150 college campuses in topics such as programming, video game design, 3D printing, and much more. Most locations offer weekly sessions that cater to anyone between the ages of 7 to 17 for the duration of the summer break.
  • Avid video gamers of the ages seven to nine will love the weeklong course called "Adventures in Minecraft Game Design," which Georgetown, among many other locations, will be offering this summer for at least four separate weeks.
  • "Adventures in Robotics" is also for those ages seven to nine, and is taught during five available sessions this summer at American University. Using legos, software, and microcomputers, students will begin making robots from Day 1.

SteamWorks Studio. For other examples of the types of camps available, look no further than the SteamWorks Studio located in Princeton, NJ. It has a wealth of options that will meet any child's interests, with an emphasis on engineering and technology.
  • For instance, in their "NANO Bots" camp, campers will get to think like an engineer. This may involve building and programming a complex robot arm, an escalator, and even a real-life Wall-E.
  • One of the many other camps is "Crazy Chemistry", which makes chemistry exciting by letting campers decorate T-shirts using chromatography, and make exothermic ice cream.

Acera Camps. Acera Summer STEAM Camp at the Massachusetts School for Science, Creativity and Leadership in Winchester, Massachusetts, has over 100 sessions to choose from. Aspiring doctor ages 7-9 can attend a "Mini Med School" where they will learn about how the human body works!
  • The Acera program has made an effort to merge more artistic elements into STEM activities. This can be seen with the "Film Club" session for ages 7-9, in which students will plan and create a film project. Such a project requires both creative thinking and technological capabilities from students.
  • To further advance towards this ideal combination, the school has built a SEEDS Studiolab; SEEDS stands for Science, Engineering, Esthetics, Design, and Storytelling. These particular themes take a unique approach at harnessing a child's artistic creativity as a trait that will help them learn science better. For example, in "Beauty of Scale" for ages 7-12, campers will utilize microscopes, telescopes, and computer programming to bring an original story to life.

Other Opportunities. While these last few examples are from states on the East Coast, there are certainly opportunities in other regions of the United States. For those residing in the south, the Georgia Tech Savannah campus offers week long programs for elementary aged children, including an App Building Technology Class. Furthermore, in the San Francisco branch of the company TechShop, children ages eight and up can attend Summer of Creation programs, which include a design and build camp that uses laser cutters and 3D printers.

Implications for Schools. Beyond giving students valuable experiences, STEAM camps also assist schools in furthering their STEAM agenda and helping students meet standards for science. To capitalize on their summer growth, students who attend these camps should continue to be challenged in STEAM throughout the academic year. It is thus important that teachers take into account whether their students have or have not experienced the many fun and exciting activities provided through STEAM summer camps, and then consider modifying options for those who have. Teachers may find it easier to keep such students engaged by giving them additional opportunities and choices at school to expand their individual STEAM repertoires. 
Innovative STEM Activities for Preschool
By Donald Kim, CEI Intern, and Christine Mason
STEM initiatives are being implemented nationwide. Most initiatives are focused on middle and high school students. But STEM programs for elementary students, kindergartners and even pre-kindergartners are becoming more commonplace. This is partly due to the Every Student Succeeds Act [(ESSA)].

Successful STEM Education is an initiative of the National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF released a brief a few years ago discussing nurturing STEM in PreK-3rd grade students. The brief covers research in the area, standards, and promising programs. Here are some of the statistics shared within the brief:
  • Leading economists concur that high-quality early education makes dollars and sense; an analysis of the economic impact of the Perry Preschool program showed a 7% to 10% per year return on investment based on increased school and career achievement.
  • Researchers have found that effective early mathematics education can enhance later learning and narrow achievement gaps.
  • Approximately 40% of U.S. children are not ready for kindergarten, and too many children reach Grade 4 lacking key science and math skills and knowledge.
  • Only 34% of Grade 4 students achieved a score of "At or Above Proficient" on the science portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
  • Only 40% of Grade 4 students achieved a score of "At or Above Proficient" on the mathematics portion of the NAEP.
Additionally, the brief suggests that nurturing PreK-3rd grade students in STEM should reflect these indicators of effectiveness:
  • Children are active and engaged
  • Goals are clear and shared by all
  • Curriculum is evidence-based
  • Valued content is learned through investigation, play, and focused, intentional teaching
  • Curriculum builds on prior learning and experiences
  • Curriculum is comprehensive
  • Professional standards validate the curriculum's subject-matter content
  • Research and other evidence indicates that the curriculum, if implemented as intended, will likely have beneficial effects
A STEAM Preschool

Spark Discovery Preschool a St. Vrain Valley school in Frederick, Colorado, opened in August 2013. The school curriculum focuses on problem solving; developing critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity (the 4 Cs); personalized learning; and building relationships, including connecting with community and STEM mentors.

At Spark Discovery Preschool, principal Paige Gordon has worked with teachers to implement a wide array of STEM activities. There are maker spaces, memory games, a math focus for the month, puppet theaters for dramatic play, play with positional games, and many more fun and exciting activities.

Mission Statement for the school: Spark! Discovery Preschool, through effective collaboration, ignites creative thinking, innovation, problem solving, and discovery to encourage every young learner's curiosity and joy of life-long learning in order to influence an ever-changing world.


There are many resources for Pre-K STEM education ranging from advice to complete curricula. The common thread that runs through all of these materials is the challenge to keep children curious and active. Summer is a great time to supplement a child's education, especially when there are so many hands-on activities available in the summer.

Suggestions and advice:
  • "What does STEM look like in Pre-School?" Includes idea for STEM play, being intentional about incorporating STEM into classrooms, and furthering student curiosity.
  • "STEM education and activities for Pre-Schoolers" The Bright Horizons website includes suggestions for summer nature walks,; building ramp tests to test speed for marbles, cars, and balls; and water play such as water balloon fishing.
  • One suggestion from Bright Horizon's for a nature walk was to have a "Wanted Dead or Alive" walk and during that walk to search for dead and alive insects, fish, animals, and plants. You could even collect specimens of both dead and alive things and include items like rocks and sand. 


Programs suggested by Successful STEM Education:
  • "Building Blocks" is a software that teaches math by incorporating a variety of other disciplines.
  • "Peep and the Big Wide World" is a show that highlights science and experimentation. Their website contains games, videos, activities, and handouts.
  • "Scratch" is a free software that allows kids to learn how to code and create their own stories, games, and animations, and "ScratchJR" is the variation for younger children.
  • "Tools of the Mind" is a yearlong play based curriculum which builds a variety of skills. 
Your Summer STEAM

What is your school and community doing with STEAM this summer? How many of your students and teachers will be participating in STEAM workshops and activities? Has your school formed a relationship with a local organization to help promote student involvement and provide access to these exciting activities for more students?

STEAM helps to put the heart into teaching and learning, as well as opening student minds and opening opportunities for their future. Summer provides a wonderful time not only for getting our students involved with STEAM, but also for planning for deeper and more meaningful STEAM engagement year round.

Hope to see you at NAESP at National Harbor!


Christine Mason
Center for Educational Improvement