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STEM

gaming, minecraft

Seven-year-old Chanse, a first grader in Kathleen Gerard’s classroom at PS 116 in New York City, is in a “World of Goo.” On an iPad, he’s using his index finger to pull little black animated “goo balls” around the screen and to connect them in an attempt to build what will end up being a flimsy but balanced bridge made of oily glop. He’s building across chasms and cliffs, avoiding windmills and spikes, trying to connect to a pipe that will suck up any goo that he didn’t use to score him big points.

K12 respondents report that an average of 30 percent of their new data-center purchasing is green, and 64 percent see cloud computing as an energy-efficient approach to IT.– Source: CDW-G’s Energy Efficient IT Report (2012)

Making the most out of fewer resources is a mantra recited by nearly every school district these days. So when Vickie Hallock, supervisor of elementary education at the Penn Manor (Pa.) School District, realized there would be a shortage of physical education teachers at the elementary level this school year, she saw it as an opportunity to introduce a new 21st-century skills course.

  • Lead from the top, suggests Hamilton City (Ohio) School District Superintendent Janet Baker, who continues the tradition of holding district science fairs. "I think the expectations for anything you want done have to start at the board and superintendent level," Baker suggests.
  • Look for ways that the skills involved in creating science projects match state standards in science, math and even language arts. (With language arts standards in mind, Hamilton City requires sixth-graders to include a research paper with their mandatory science exhibits.)

For more than half a century, the annual science fair has been a fixture in many a school's academic life, both for science teachers, who guide classes through the hands-on experience of researching topics of interest, and for students, who often hectically put the finishing touches on their work the night before it is exhibited in the school gym or other public space. From there, winning submissions can advance to district or regional science fairs and—with enough scientific know-how and inspiration, as well as school and parental support—to national science competitions.

In August, as the back-to-school clothing and supplies were hitting the stores, Miami-Dade County (Fla.) Public Schools launched its own new "product line of services" to its student clientele, including additional magnet schools, a conservatory for the arts, salad bars, and new technology and online digital tools for students. This "ritual of reinvention" is a signature program of Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, as he's unveiled similar plans each year since joining the district in fall 2008.

By the fall of 2012, the Next Generation of Science Standards will be available for states to adopt. Part 1 of the process, the Framework for K12 Science Education, was released July 19 by the National Research Council (NRC), an arm of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Traditionally, states have developed their own individual standards by extracting components from science benchmarks set forth by organizations such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Girl doing chemistry exercise

Three years ago, sophomore environmental science students at the Science Leadership Academy (SLA) in Philadelphia needed a problem to solve. But they weren't just looking for any old problem; they wanted a big one, a real-life one that could make a difference in the world—one that would challenge them to be creative, to work in teams, to think and plan and build, and, by the way, to allow them to meet all of the state and local standards for the class.

The Gloria Marshall Elementary School

The new Gloria Marshall Elementary School, opening this fall to 730 pre-K5 students in the Spring (Texas) Independent School District, will sport an aquatic pond for students to study its ecosystem, a butterfly garden, an above-ground cistern to collect rainwater, and a wind turbine. Inside will be a computer in the school lobby allowing students to view the amount of energy the roof's solar panels are harnessing. It will be one of the greenest schools in Texas and the first in Houston to use geothermal heating and cooling.

Kathleen Regan came to Glen Rock Public Schools four years ago thinking she would work only six months as the interim director of curriculum and instruction. Instead, she has stayed and succeeded—helping place the affluent, 2,500-student New Jersey district 20 miles northwest of Manhattan in the national spotlight for its science, technology, engineering and math program that extends from kindergarten to college-level work in high school.

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