September Features Fantastic Fall STEM News at Girls STEM Collaborative (GSGSC)
Greetings from GSGSC! The Garden State Girls STEM Collaborative is the New Jersey initiative of the National Girls Collaborative Project, a program focused on providing high quality STEM activities to girls. Our primary goal is to strengthen the capacity of girl-serving STEM programs to effectively reach and serve underrepresented girls in STEM by sharing promising practice research and program models, outcomes, products and by connecting formal and informal educators, business and industry in order to maximize the resources that can positively influence our girls. 
As always, this newsletter is for you as members of the Collaborative. It can serve as a forum to promote events and to highlight the good work that you all do, so please let me know what is going on so we can include your program in upcoming issues.
In this issue:
Mike MacEwan
Collaborative Lead, Garden State Girls STEM Collaborative
Join us on Sat 10/24 for the Abbot Marshlands Educator PD session FREE!
Click here to register by 10/10

In New Jersey, Mercer County's Tulpehaking Nature Center is the main educational facility for the Abbott Marshlands.

Located at 157 Westcott Avenue, Hamilton Township, New Jersey, this building was acquired in 2005 with NJ DEP Green Acres Development Grants to D&R Greenway Land Trust that were matched by Mercer County. It is owned by Mercer County and operated by the Mercer County Park Commission.

Because the ranch style home and property are located within the Abbott Farm National Historic Landmark, extensive archaeological surveys were required before renovations could begin.  The Tulpehaking Nature Center opened to the public in October 2014.

Programs and exhibits (in development) encourage visitors to explore and discover the many cultural, historic, and natural resources of the Abbott Marshlands.

Register by Saturday October 10th and join us for the Abbot Marshlands Educator PD Session FREE!

Click here to register today!
Join us on Wed 10/14 for the NJ ASM STEM Fellowship Roundtable at #NJSACC - RSVP today!
Click here to RSVP via e-mail today!

Come hear current and local research and promising practices for engaging New Jersey's youth in STEM.

WHEN: Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

TIME: 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm*

WHERE: NJSACC, New Jersey's Afterschool Network
Fellowship Hall (downstairs)
170 Elm Street
Westfield, NJ 07090

* Light refreshments will be served.

Please RSVP via e-mail at: by Monday 10/12


Marissa Blodnick
Rutgers - Dept. of 4-H Youth Development

Lorena Kirschner
Girl Scouts of Northern NJ

Francine Luce
Jersey City Public Schools

Michelle Masarik
Friendship Train Foundation

Jim Nichnadowicz
Rutgers Cooperative Extension 4-H Program

Eladio Reyes
Plainfield Public Schools

Kelly Rypkema
Mercer County Park Commission, Tulpehaking Nature Center

Mark Simmons
Board Leadership: 12 Steps to Recruiting Effective Board Members

Written by Dodge

Finding effective board members is not for the faint of heart. It is hard work. Most boards have made it harder by having done it so poorly in the past that there are few left on the board unscathed and willing to try again - or anew.

So sad, because once you master the science of finding the right people, the rest is fun, assuming, of course, that you like meeting people and sharing your passion for the organization on whose behalf you seek board members.

Let's break the science down into small steps that, if followed as the footprints on the floor used by dance instructors, will ensure your goal of having board members who understand both the organization and the job of being a board member for that organization before they even say "yes." Mix in some art along the way and you will build a strong board that both understands its job and is willing (dare I say, "eager") to do it.

This 12-step process should be led by the Governance Committee which will pull in everyone else, including the executive director, to assist in the implementation of the process:
    1. Write a board member job description. There are plenty of samples on the Web and you can always ask other organizations to share their board member job descriptions. Do understand that there is a difference in both form and function between a job description and a list of responsibilities. For example, I am well into my third decade working in a profession - academia - that has no job description, but does have an implied set of responsibilities. I am also well into my second decade of a job - executive director - where there is a very clear and explicit job description, with very clear and specific tasks and responsibilities stated within. The former position comes with tremendous independence and freedom (and not just academic freedom) and very little accountability to anyone other than myself. The latter comes with complete accountability to others. It isn't happenstance that the former has just a list of responsibilities and the other a job description. Board members are absolutely accountable - to the public, to donors and to the mission.
    2. Create the ideal Board profile. Here's where a little art is needed as board members must forget what is currently on the board and instead think about what is ideally needed on the board, while thinking beyond the mission. There is no value in packing a board with mission expertise that replicates what is on staff.
    3. Now see what you've got. This is where the actual - who and what is sitting around the board table now - meets the ideal - what we said we wanted and needed going forward.
    4. Identify the specific gaps and then prioritize them. Now you know what you are looking for - an ABC or an EFG.
    5. Target recruitment sources. Your smart phone is not a recruitment source! Those resources are the places where an A or a B or a C are likely to be during working hours, after hours, weekends, nights, etc. And this requires a little art, as you have to think creatively as to where folks can be found. Yes, places of work; so, approach the human resources department of a major corporation. Contact local chapters of professional associations or the formal/informal association of religious leaders in a community or a local college or university. Today, everyone wants and needs more than just diversity of skills; they want demographic diversity, as well. There is an increasing segregation of professional associations: National Society of Hispanic MBAs; National Association of Black Accountants; Out in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (love the name -Out in STEM); Association of Black Psychologists, Association for Women in Communications; Chambers of Commerce come without adjectives and with, including the Asian American Chamber, the Hispanic Chamber, the African American Chamber, National Lesbian and Gay Law Association. This list could go on and on. Most of these organizations have local chapters all around the country. Finding all of these incredibly rich sources of board members is simple science but also where some of that hard work comes in.
    6. Assign board members to reach out to each of the potential recruitment sources to explain your needs and see how they might help.
    7. Get your ducks in order: what information and materials will you share and when? (Do not make the mistake of sharing too little; the better informed a candidate is when s/he accepts an offer to join a board the more likely s/he will be an active board member.) What will the recruitment process look like? Who and how many will meet with a candidate first and will it be over the phone or face to face? What will happen next and with whom: a visit to the office; a site visit to see the mission in action; another interview? (And, yes, there should be more than one interview and a chance to see the mission in action.) What do you need and want to learn about the candidates, and where and how along the recruitment process will this happen? The more you treat the process, as you would a staff hire, the more successful you will be in bringing the right people on. Don't forget the reference checks! Or, if just the mere mention of this makes you queasy, institute a requirement that everyone must serve six to 12 months on a committee before being eligible to be nominated to the board. This reduces reliance on the art of selecting the best people.
    8. Lots of hard work: implement the process you've built. Lots of art, too, in divining who will be a good board member and who won't.
    9. Nominate viable candidates who are still interested in joining the board and hold the election.
    10. Notify candidates of their election and share with them the calendar of dates, times and agenda for the different components of the orientation program; assign a mentor to each new board member.
    11. Mark on the calendar the date for the mid-year "review" with each new board members.
    12. Now, breathe, and start the process again!
Click here to read more.
Click here to read more and watch the video!

Written by Danny Gallagher

To most people, the Rubik's Cube looks like a simple toy. But then they start trying to slide those squares into place, and their brains wonder what the Cube did to them that made them want to hurt it so much.

Teenager Collin Burns doesn't see the Rubik's Cube that way. He's been flipping squares since he was a little kid, and he's become so good at solving the Rubik's Cube that he broke the world record for a single solve back in April at the World Cube Association competition. His astonishing time of 5.253 seconds beat the previous record by just under one-third of a second.

You might think solving a Cube that fast requires a brain that can also do calculations faster than a calculator or remember at least 3 million digits of pi. However, you don't need a Ph.D. in quantum mechanics to figure out how to solve it, according to a new video from Vox.

Burns explains in the video below the technique he learned to solve the Cube. It's called the Fridrich Method and named for Binghamton University engineering professor Jessica Fridrich, who developed it while she was a college student.

The method involves recognizing or organizing one set of the colored squares in a cross pattern that establishes that side as the bottom layer. Then Burns solves the Cube in sections above that layer so that just the top row is unsolved. He then applies one of a number of different algorithms to the remaining pieces to put the rest of the Cube's colors in place. Fridrich has her own "Speed Cubing" website that explains her method in more detail.

The real key to Burns' success with the Rubik's Cube isn't some magic formula or hormone injections that give his fingers the dexterity of a cheetah (if cheetahs had fingers). The key is practice. He's dedicated a huge chunk of his young life to learning how the Cube works and how to rapidly recall and apply the techniques he's learned so he could improve his solve time over the years.

So if you can learn to wait and dedicate yourself for the next 10 years or so, you might be able to beat his record and get your name in the record books.

Click here to read more and watch the video!
U.S. government to collect data on 'grit' levels of students

Written by Valerie Strauss

Grit. It's the not-so-new thing in education that has nevertheless become a current watchword, in general for how much students persevere and stay on task. What exactly is it? Is it related to a student's character? Can it be taught? If so, how? Should it be taught? Does it always produce positive results for students? Can it be measured in any meaningful way?

These are questions that have been part of the public education discussion for years (so much so that back in 2012 I published a post titled "Sick of grit already"). Yet there is no consensus on the big questions surrounding "grit." That, however, is not stopping the U.S. government from deciding to collect data from students about their individual "grit" levels. How? By asking them to rate their own level of grit. But are they good judges of their own abilities in this regard?

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, better known as NAEP and long called the nation's report card because it is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of America's students, is going to start amassing student data on level of "grit" in 2017. NAEP is the legal responsibility of the U.S. Commissioner of Education Statistics, who heads the National Center for Education Statistics in the U.S. Department of Education. The U.S. education secretary appoints the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for the NAEP independent of the department and which works with contractors to create and administer the tests.

NAEP tests national samples of students in grades 4 and 8 - and sometimes grade 12 - in reading and math every two years, and in history, science, civics and other subjects every several years. For decades, it has asked students on background surveys to self-report on various topics, including their reading habits and the time they spend watching television. Now it will add "grit" and "desire for learning" to the list. The agenda of a May meeting of the NAEP governing board's Reporting and Dissemination Committee said in part:

R&D will have reviewed the core contextual modules three times before any are included in the 2017 NAEP operational administration. These proposed modules include the following: (1) socio-economic status; (2) technology use; (3) school climate; (4) grit; (5) and desire for learning. The Committee's first review occurred in August 2014, as part of the board meeting. In reviewing the feedback from that session, the overall focus of the comments seemed to lie in ensuring that the questions are inclusive, accessible, and more positive.

According to Education Week:

The background survey will include five core areas-grit, desire for learning, school climate, technology use, and socioeconomic status-of which the first two focus on a student's noncognitive skills, and the third looks at noncognitive factors in the school. These core areas would be part of the background survey for all NAEP test-takers. In addition, questions about other noncognitive factors, such as self-efficacy and personal achievement goals, may be included on questionnaires for specific subjects to create content-area measures, according to Jonas P. Bertling, ETS director for NAEP survey questionnaires.

Diane Ravitch, on her blog, offers this:

Will we someday know which states and cities have students with the most grit? And once we know, will officials create courses in how to improve grit? 
I am reminded of a strange finding that emerged from international background questions two decades ago. Students were asked if they were good in math. Students in nations with the highest test scores said they were not very good in math; students in nations where test scores were middling thought they were really good at math.
What does it all mean? I don't know, but it satisfies someone's need for more data.

It is worth noting a 2015 essay on this subject co-written by Angela L. Duckworth, the University of Pennsylvania researcher who popularized "grit." It is titled, "Measurement Matters: Assessing Personal Qualities Other Than Cognitive Ability for Educational Purposes" and says in part:

In recent years, scholars, practitioners, and the lay public have grown increasingly interested in measuring and changing attributes other than cognitive ability (Heckman & Kautz, 2014a; Levin, 2013; Naemi, Burrus, Kyllonen, & Roberts,2012; Stecher & Hamilton, 2014; Tough, 2013; Willingham,1985). These so-called noncognitive qualities are diverse and collectively facilitate goal-directed effort (e.g., grit, self-control, growth mind-set), healthy social relationships (e.g., gratitude,emotional intelligence, social belonging), and sound judgment and decision making (e.g., curiosity, open-mindedness). Longitudinal research has confirmed such qualities powerfully predict academic, economic, social, psychological, and physical well-being (Almlund, Duckworth, Heckman, & Kautz, 2011; Borghans, Duckworth, Heckman, & ter Weel, 2008; Farrington et al., 2012; J. Jackson, Connolly, Garrison, Levin, & Connolly, 2015; Moffitt et al., 2011; Naemi et al., 2012; Yeager & Walton, 2011). 
We share this more expansive view of student competence and well-being, but we also believe that enthusiasm for these factors should be tempered with appreciation for the many limitations of currently available measures. In this essay, our claim is not that everything that counts can be counted or that everything that can be counted counts. Rather, we argue that the field urgently requires much greater clarity about how well, at present, it is able to count some of the things that count.

Click here to read more from this article's source.
 Got STEM? Let us Know How You're Supporting STEM or STEAM in Afterschool!
Click here to get started

NJSACC knows that a lot of great things are being achieved through STEM education in afterschool programs, but we need to know more. Help us make a difference by pinpointing STEM activity taking place in your programs and let's find out what is being accomplished!

With that in mind, please take a moment and fill out our quick survey to express your interests in incorporating STEM or STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) into your programs or how you are currently implementing STEM. Please note that programs that do not currently offer STEM are encouraged to complete the survey as well. We'd like to hear from all of you!

We encourage as many programs to respond as possible, whether or not you have strong involvement with STEM.

Thank you, in advance, for your help.

Click here to access the survey and begin!
Join The Connectory
Click here to begin

Use The Connectory to collaborate with STEM programs and promote your upcoming STEM opportunities to families. Programs are organizations providing STEM opportunities. Opportunities are time-bound STEM events such as summer camps, one-day events, workshops, career fairs, and competitions, and are automatically promoted to visitors based on their location.

Add your opportunities now so they will be available to the families across the country accessing The Connectory!
  • Join: Make an account profile
  • Create: Add your organization/program
  • Approval: Your program listing will be approved so it can be searched for by program providers
  • Add: Add all your STEM opportunities
  • Approval: Your time-bound opportunities will be approved so they can be searched for by families
  • Discover: Search for other programs providers to connect with
  • Opportunities are visible publicly to families. Programs are visible to other STEM providers.
The National Girls Collaborative Project Program Directory is now The Connectory.
Michael MacEwan 
Collaborative Lead  
Garden State Girls STEM Collaborative