Monday, January 26, 2015


Full STEAM Ahead!
As an art teacher, I find so many ways that art education melds with the STEM initiatives, and from now on I'm adding the A.  In the junk drawer of my mind, I see so many relationships where Art is an integral part of the business of getting kids, not just girls, excited about observing the world around them and applying what they learn to their everyday lives in so many positive ways.  Both science and art are all about observation.
A 2nd grader's perspective work
   Part of my curriculum includes perspective and proportion.  Students learn how to use parallel lines, horizons, and vanishing points to recreate in 2D much of the 3D reality around them.  There's some geometry involved, too.
Understanding perspective in the landscape
   In summer we warm up with what I call Backyard Naturalist.  We get quiet and listen to the world, and note what we hear.  We notice the air and how it feels; we pay attention to the weather.  We observe the world with each of our senses one at a time, and look all around us and record the details. We use field guides to identify the plants, trees, insects and animals we see, and each student keeps a nature journal.
Backyard Naturalists
   When we work on faces and figures, not only are we learning the art of proportion, and the math of comparative measurement; we learn a lot about anatomy, and how negative space is equally important to the actual subject we are recreating. 
We learn how values create the appearance of volume.  

We find ways to create visual energy on a piece of paper!

It was no surprise to me that others were thinking the same thing:

Rhode Island School of Design thinks Art and Design must be added to the STEM model as "America is once again turning to innovation as the way to ensure a prosperous future.Yet innovation remains tightly coupled with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – the STEM subjects. Art + Design are poised to transform our economy in the 21st century just as science and technology did in the last century."

Many schools are also hot on adding Art to the STEM curriculum, as noted here in THE Journal: For These Schools, Adding Arts to STEM Boosts Curriculum.

And this article in Education Week talks about the equal importance of Art in bringing about the innovative thinking necessary for STEM initiatives to work in developing 21st century citizens.
STEAM is the perfect balance of our universal nature as observers and innovators
So, I'm not just blowing hot air here.  All this STEAM business got me to thinking about a few STEAMy people I know, and how far-reaching the associations can go.

Next installment: STEAMY Women

Monday, January 19, 2015

STEMGirl Part 2

Yesterday I had a wonderful exciting experience.  I was on my running route on my little beach here in North Plymouth, and after my one mile stretch at my usual stretching spot, I noticed something out of place, something unusual.  It was a big blob of rockish stuff that had once been molten.  It appeared to have been picked up and dragged onto the beach by the ice from last week's cold spell.  It looked like it had been the water for awhile since it was quite degraded.  I could see iron and sulphur and all sorts of interesting colors and textures.  Could it be a meteorite?
Unlimited potential
It was pretty heavy; I guessed around 10 pounds as I carried it to the flat rock I use as a canvas for impromptu beach artworks to snap this photo with my phone.  I was excited.
   Most people would have left it on the beach, but I had to take this baby home and find out more about it.  As I lugged it along the shore I ran into a women who is often out there collecting fossils.  I showed it to her, and she thought it was awesome.  She mentioned that some meteorites have gold in them. Suddenly my find became even more exciting!
   The weight of it had slowed my run into a brisk walk where I would alternate carrying it on my right or left shoulder, and then cradle it for a few minutes in one arm or the other, switching the burden as I ascended the half-mile and 114 feet above sea level to my house at the Top of the World.  I mention this because this morning I have exquisite pain in both biceps.
My potential meteorite at home
Once home, I gave it a good weighing and measuring.  It actually weighed 15.75 lbs, and was approximately 8x10" with a girth of around 23/24 inches.  I posted it on Facebook and got all sorts of people excited.  Then, I started my investigation.
   I found a few meteorite sites such as this So, you think you found a meteorite? and this one: Meteorite Market and this one: Meteorite Home Tests.  
   My first test was the magnet test.  We used to have all sorts of strong magnets around here, and I couldn't find one of them so I popped down to Benny's and got some of those small round ones.  I put a magnet on a piece of tape, and moved it near my subject whereupon the magnet, attracted to my piece of potential, swung over and stuck.  It passed the magnet test!
   Next I had to ask with magnifying glass in hand: Did it have Chondrules? Chondrules are small, colorful, grain-like spheres that occur in most stone meteorites. Chondrules are not found in earth rocks. There were a few colorful grain-like spheres and one that looked like a mini BB, but I wasn't so sure they were actual chondrules.
   And then there was this little problem of vesicles - holes.  My blob of previously molten whatever had way too many holes in it to be a meteorite. :-(  So, I took it outside and smacked it a few times with a sledge hammer.  It broke apart easily showing me a punky core of iron and such.
   It was not a meteorite; it was a meteorwrong -  a big blob of slag likely an artifact from the old brick kiln nearby.
My MeteorWrong
Was I disappointed?  No, I was not.  The discovery, excitement, investigation, and pure potential were worth its weight in gold.  I had found a treasure as valuable as the arrowhead I found on that same beach 20 years ago that caused my imagination to go off on the journey that resulted in Nelson Telson - The Story of a True Blue Blood.

The treasure is in the potential, the springboard to imagination, the star stuff that dreams are made on.
   My MeteorWrong is the Right Stuff sitting out on the back porch calling to my imagination saying, "I have a story to tell, and you will help me tell it."
   So, when we talk about this STEM business and getting girls excited about science, what we are really talking about is creating a sense of wonder and curiosity, an attitude of openness, of limitless possibilities.  
   In today's world of school, scheduled activities, and electronics, kids often don't have the freedom to explore, experience and imagine outside in the natural world.  For STEM Girl initiatives to work, kids need to be fortified with a good helping of AWE PIE:

You really want to get your mind blown?  Check this out:  NASA releases largest picture ever taken.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Mariah, STEM Girl

When I was writing Nelson Telson – The Story of a True Blue Blood I had no idea that I was writing a work that would fit right into the national STEM Girls initiative.  I had no idea the book would have such value in the realm of science education.  I didn’t even think about the book’s potential to get girls excited about careers in science.  I knew Mariah had many important lessons she needed to learn and share with readers, but when I was writing it I was just compelled to create this story with a deep sense of place and purpose.
STEM Girl Mariah at Associates of Cape Cod facility 
   A few weeks ago a helpful friend who is in the business of educational systems called to say he had read the book, and mentioned this STEM thing.  That was the first I’d ever heard of it, so after we hung up I googled it, and I’m still googling it because there are endless aspects where Nelson Telson serves STEM Girls.  Thanks, Joseph!
   What is STEM, you ask?  Science, Technology, Engineering, Math
   Why is it so important these days?  Because girls and women have been getting the shaft when it comes to being encouraged to study for and enter into STEM-based careers.
   During my first googling session I ran into an article in The Onion: “New STEM Education Initiative Inspires Girls To Earn Less Than Men In Scientific Careers”  that takes that whole concept of girls and women getting the shaft in science and technology education and careers a bit deeper to the core issue of the glass ceiling in these fields, but I digress.
   Last year Barack Obama said, “One of the things that I really strongly believe in is that we need to have more girls interested in math, science, and engineering. We’ve got half the population that is way underrepresented in those fields and that means that we’ve got a whole bunch of talent…not being encouraged the way they need to.”    And The Office of Science and Technology Policy, in collaboration with the White House Council on Women and Girls is dedicated to changing that.
Mrs. Tarbox explains Einstein's special theory of relativity 
   Even before I’d heard of this STEM business, I was very excited that Lars Helgeson, PhD and his Life Science for Elementary Teachers class at the University of North Dakota identified more than 20 teachable themes in the book, some of which Lars will be using to create a full-blown companion curriculum of lessons in the format accepted by the National Science Teachers Association.  The book is jam-packed with lessons in science, marine biology, ecology, evolution, history, relativity theory, to name a few.  And Mariah, the main character is quite the role model when it comes to curiosity and critical thinking. STEM-ishly cool, eh?

 Even the Girl Scouts are in on it with a bunch of new STEM proficiency badges for Naturalist, Digital Art, Science and Technology, Innovation, AND to help them tackle that pesky problem of unequal pay for equal work (see Onion article above), Financial Literacy badges. That’s the M in STEM, baby.
   The possibilities are endless for Mariah and her natural STEM-Girlishness. There’s the National Math + Science Initiative; many schools are hell-bent on offering girls after school STEM opportunities.  The National Girls Collaborative Project is Advancing the Agenda of Gender Equality by encouraging girls to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.  PBS has a show, SciGirls  produced by Twin Cities Public Television where middle grade girls are getting hands-on experience piquing their interest and encouraging them to succeed in STEM-based projects.  The National Science Foundation is all over it to too.

   I've always been a STEM Girl myself, so it's no wonder that Mariah just fell into it magically.

Dream big, Girls!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My low tech fitness band

 Last night I read a wonderful blog post by Lucky Lady LaFrance about how she is using her new fitness band to count her steps into a more physically fit new year.  First, I need to thank Erica for being an inspiration to me to make my own blog a little more physically fit, colorful, and lively.
   Mover and shaker that I am, I have been employing my fitness band long before the electronic ones were ever invented.  Erica posted a picture of her band displaying a red line that tells her when she hasn't been moving around enough.

Mine has the same function.  I call it the Oyster Not-So-Perpetual.
A cherished treasure of the salad days, I have been using my Oyster Not-So-Perpetual fitness band for nearly 20 years.  This is how it works, or doesn't:  I wake up in the morning and put it on.  When I take my daily run, I refer to it as "winding my watch."  If I don't move around enough, my Not-So warns me by slowing down and losing time. How's that for a fitness band? It exudes both beauty and functionality.  If I fail to wear it, it stops altogether, silently demanding my attention.  It's a lovely piece of jewelry that tells time, sort of.  One thing it never fails to do is to remind me of just how grateful I am for all of the abundance in my life. And thanks to Erica I was reminded of its value to my own low tech fitness routine. 
In addition to that, I am also reminded that I need to employ the social media matrix more broadly. So, please follow me on twitter and instagram and make sure to visit Lucky Lady LaFrance's inspiring blog.