Thursday, March 26, 2015

Robin King - How are the Humanities integral to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)?

Robin King is currently teaching in St. Paul Public Schools as a Specialist in Developmental Cognitive Disabilities. Previously she embarked on a 30-year journey through nursing; restaurant ownership; and teaching Multiple Language Learner students, working as a school district Equity Coach, school district Homelessness Liaison, Associate Director of Family Service Center, Behavior Intervention Specialist/Coach, and a Special Education Inclusion Consultant. Through all of this, making connections through narratives of person, culture and passion are the warp thread in the tapestry of Robin’s life. This is how she helps students who learn differently to connect to various content, to their communities, and to the world...just as she does.

My first thoughts ran to lofty heights of explanation. What I know is MY story, my daily lived life, my daily integration of the humanities into the lives of my students; the web of literacy, art, the history of our lives and cultures, how we engage in our culture and society and yes, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

My students in grades 3-5 grace my every day with a plethora of strengths and disabilities. Our days learning together are challenged cognitively, linguistically, and physically by lack of vision or traditional voices, physical spasticity, encumbering equipment, time for personal cares and…well, the list goes on.

As I greet each day I reflect on the “painting” of my life. Whether in color or black and white, the layers of brush strokes, the shades of meaning are caught within. As I listen to the first sounds, I know who is calling, I know something about the path and I am in motion. So I thought, “How does this question apply to me as an educator?” The answer, “It is how I teach!” For me, it is weaving together a tapestry of our narratives of life with the tools to navigate our community and society, and knitting the threads of our unique differences into a flexible, colorful way of knowing through connections across disciplines.

As I greet each day I also reflect on the life "paintings" I create for my students. As I lay down the brush strokes, the textures, the highlights, and the shadows, I know I am creating a vision and space for them to engage and navigate the shades of meaning in life, and to tell their stories.

This is an awesome responsibility!

Stories happen as we explore iPads as tools for learning, to demonstrate in an accessible way our exploration of math, to record our acting out a word problem or developing “tools” to help us physically manipulate our technology in an independent way. Stories happen when we hear our voices recorded as we describe a learning process. Stories happen as we use technology to access worlds we have yet to experience through video, audio, and face-to-face across oceans and continents. Stories happen as a student without eyes finds a way to understand the abstract concept of color through a concrete musical app for drawing.

Stories happen as I integrate a culturally responsive and relevant, multiple-perspective, multi-sensory, cross-categorical approach to my instruction. Each student, each day is learning both formal and informal curricula in ways which respect, free, and inform their minds, strengthen their bodies, and expand their souls. It is my passionate, purposeful, responsibility to uphold the highest expectations of my students’ and my own capacity. Stories happen as I strive daily to provide the necessary conditions, create, and open the pathways where learning can most deeply and individually begin.

The learning continuum is simple, joyful, thoughtful, purposeful, ongoing, mutual, and lifelong for me as a teacher and for each of my students. Stories happen here.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Resources - How are the Humanities integral to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)?

Oh, The Humanities! Why STEM Shouldn't Take Precedence Over the Arts

Arizona State University Project Humanities
By Grace Richards

As much trouble as the education industry is in, every state continues to witness the dissolving of the very funds intended to help it. Major cuts in education have been directed toward the arts and humanities where millions of students are being deprived of these subjects and outlets. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), nearly 1.5 million elementary students are without music, nearly 4 million are without the visual arts, and almost 100% of them, more than 23 million, are educated without dance and theatre.

Government Push for STEM

While the Department of Education (DoE) attempts to find a one-size-fits-all solution for more than 14,000 public school districts through its Common Core Standards, the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) have been placed as the focal point for education, well ahead of arts and humanities.

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At MIT, the humanities are just as important as STEM

The Boston Globe
By Deborah K. Fitzgerald

The role of the humanities in American education has been the subject of much recent debate amid concerns that the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and math) are eclipsing the humanities fields in relevance and career prospects.

So some may be surprised, and, I hope, reassured, to learn that here at MIT — a bastion of STEM education — we view the humanities, arts, and social sciences as essential, both for educating great engineers and scientists, and for sustaining our capacity for innovation.

Why? Because the Institute’s mission is to advance knowledge and educate students who are prepared to help solve the world’s most challenging problems — in energy, health care, transportation, and many other fields. To do this, our graduates naturally need advanced technical knowledge and skills — the deep, original thinking about the physical universe that is the genius of the science and engineering fields

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Steve Kelley - How are the Humanities integral to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)?

Steve Kelley is a Senior Fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. He is an advocate for STEM and humanities education. Governor Dayton appointed him to the board of the Minnesota Humanities Center on which he served from 2011 through 2015.

Since the best relationships are mutual, the question posed this month could be “How are STEM subjects and the humanities integral to each other?” Let me count the ways.

Christine Kenneally’s recent The Invisible History of the Human Race describes how the science of DNA combined with historical research reveals new insights into the past, including the confirmation that Thomas Jefferson was the father of Sally Hemings’ children. Another DNA project created a map of the genetic similarities among residents of England, showing how groupings and migrations (for example, the Picts and the Saxon invasion) that date back hundreds of years are still visible. The genetic map would be pretty pointless without history and archaeology to tell the rest of the story.

At Intel, Genevieve Bell is the resident cultural anthropologist. She leads social scientists and designers who study user experiences. She explores the culture for clues to our technological future. In a 2014 Stanford video (from the New York Times story Intel’s Sharp-Eyed Social Scientist), she describes how she alerted Intel engineers that Apple’s Siri technology might be the beginning of a shift from human-computer interaction to human-computer relationships because Siri, however imperfectly, listens to us. Bell represents just one way that the humanities are integral to engineering.

Too many in higher education still treat the humanities and STEM as separate and unintegrated, but bright spots exist. Professor Camille George had to integrate her skills in mechanical engineering with an understanding of the culture of Haiti to develop methods that add value to breadfruit. Her project is one example of peace engineering, blending engineering and practical anthropology for the common good. Another project put sociologists in the field with engineers to enable farmers in Mali to grow their own seed potatoes rather than import them from Europe.

We could do a better job of integrating learning in K-12 education, too. Here is one opportunity for the Minnesota Humanities Center. The Next Generation Science Standards that have been adopted in some states emphasize science and engineering as practices in which people engage, rather than merely bodies of knowledge. The Standards encourage students to understand concepts that cross the boundaries between science and engineering as a way of integrating those practices. In middle school, physical science essential practices include developing and using models, analyzing and interpreting data, and constructing explanations and designing solutions. Cross-cutting concepts include patterns, cause and effect, structure, and function.

What if we taught history this way? Certainly historical facts, dates, and theories are important, but, might we better prepare young people to integrate STEM and the humanities if it was taught that science and engineering and history and literature are concerned with patterns, with cause and effect, and with structure and function? The practice of history, just like the practice of science, involves constructing models of change, analyzing and interpreting data, and constructing explanations. If we could figure out how to teach our children to see that STEM and the humanities are integrated, perhaps we adults could see that truth more clearly too.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Jerry Newton - How are the Humanities integral to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)?

Jerry Newton is a Veteran who served our country as Command Sergeant Major in the U.S. Army and was one of ten recipients of the Veterans’ Voices Award—Legacy category . Jerry is a community leader who served a total of 14 years on the Coon Rapids City Council and the Anoka-Hennepin District 11 School Board before being elected to the Minnesota State Legislature where he now serves. He was the Vice Chair of the State Government and Veterans Affairs Finance Committee and Chaired the Select Committee on Veteran’s Housing. Jerry co-authored the Veterans’ Voices Month legislation, which became law in 2014. He initiated STEM, AVID, and International Baccalaureate programs in District 11 schools and was the 2010 Minnesota School Board Legislator of the Year. As a long-term member of the Anoka County Affordable Housing Coalition, Jerry worked to find housing solutions for homeless Veterans and unaccompanied youth.

Years ago, while assigned to the Joint Military Mission for Aid to Turkey, I became friends with a young man who was studying architecture at the University of Ankara. I remember his excitement as he was certain he would finally master his professor’s rigorous final exam, one that he had failed on four prior attempts.

Unfortunately, he did not pass the test. As he explained it, the examination consisted of climbing a ladder to the third floor of a four story apartment building that was in the final stages of construction and examining all aspects of the architectural design of the building with particular attention to the third floor to determine where the building did not meet code or was otherwise faulty. He and his ten fellow graduate student colleagues were to apply all they had learned in class about architecture and construction. Using the best mathematics, physics, and dynamics of architecture principals, each wrote what they considered to be a brilliant paper based on their careful observations.

The entire class failed because they all focused too much on technical details and not one of them mentioned that the main problem with the building was the architect had failed to include a stairwell or elevator – hence the need to climb a ladder to the third floor.

The point being made here is we all too often devote too much attention to detail and miss the big picture, sometimes with potentially disastrous consequences. The scientists and technicians of the world have the ability to design and create weapons of mass destruction terrible beyond imagination. They view this as a challenge to be met and overcome – witness the Manhattan Project and the development of the atomic bomb. It is up to the social scientists, the philosophers, and the humanitarians of the world to insist that we think about where their creations will lead us and to make the public aware that there are better alternatives.

So, where does the current push for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (“STEM”) programs come in? Although it is recognized that we have a shortage of individuals in these fields, all too often we will deemphasize the equally important need for individuals schooled in the social sciences and the humanities. The relatively recent push for STEM education in the K-12 system has led to deemphasizing the humanities and resulted in teachers of music, art, languages, and the social sciences being laid off. Only recently has the education community realized that the arts are equally important to a well-rounded education. Hence, we now see “STEAM” programs, that is STEM programs that incorporate the ‘A’ (arts) as an integral part of the curriculum. It is by combining the social sciences, arts, and humanities with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics that we will be able avoid the potentially missing stairwell of full human knowledge.