March 2018

Dear Trustey Fellows,

March Madness is upon us! Whether you enjoy college basketball or not, many of you have filled out a bracket for potential winners in the men's or women's tournament. This is the time of year when we hear a host of clichés like: "Defense wins championships," or "Your attitude determines your altitude." Aside from the great potential math problem of selecting a bracket based on probabilities, another cliché provides STEM teachers some direction: "Finish Strong."

Effective teachers value, no, CRAVE, every moment that they have doing STEM with students. They recognize that the end of the year does not mean that students stop being interested in STEM or want to engage with it any less. Rather, the end of the year is an opportunity to finish strong–to piece together the central questions of the STEM disciplines and apply their understandings in new and deep ways.

The following newsletter highlights teachers who provide all students access to high quality STEM learning experiences and continue to improve their own teaching throughout the year. Let these models serve as an example for all of us in this final quarter of the school year to finish strong and recognize that the learning, service, and professional development never really end!

Matt and the STEM Teaching Fellows Core Team

School Team of the Month

Fernwood Avenue Middle School
Egg Harbor Township, NJ

Christina Kupcinski, Janice Blaine, Tracey Latshaw, Ashley Mosetti 

What is the focus of your STEM Impact Plan work this year?

Our STEM Impact Plan focuses on developing a consistent understanding of STEM integration within our school and introducing STEM integration projects into each of the grade levels. This year we have begun this work in a number of ways. We started with a survey of our staff to assess their impressions and definition of STEM education. We have also engaged in many informal conversations with our colleagues to share what we have been learning in the Trustey program. It has been interesting to hear about the STEM experiences they are already providing or interested in providing to their students. We are in full research mode as we work towards developing a consistent understanding of STEM integration in our school.

Our work developing STEM integration projects for each grade level has also involved research, as well as trial and error, as we test various projects with our own students and learn more about the math and science standards for each grade. As we further our education and develop our projects, our next step will be to provide professional development to turnkey these ideas.

What exciting STEM experiences have happened at your school so far this year?

There have been many exciting STEM experiences at Fernwood this year! The first sixth-grade STEM Day was a huge accomplishment for our school and our sixth-grade students. The day was packed with fun-filled STEM geared activities. The sixth-grade Science teachers began an Earth Science unit on natural disasters, including earthquakes, prior to the actual STEM day experience. On STEM day, teachers in every subject implemented a STEM integration project in their classroom. The project consisted of constructing Earthquake Towers during our Science periods that were tested on STEM Day. The students worked in groups to construct a two- to four-story building using the materials provided, utilizing the Engineering Design Process we learned at Notre Dame. Our STEM Day agenda included a penny boat challenge, Federal Aviation Administration engineers who discussed careers in STEM, followed by our earthquake tower testing. This was a truly amazing day in which everyone–staff and students–had the opportunity to engage in a quality STEM experience.

In some of our seventh- and eighth-grade math classes, we tried out paper circuits for the first time. It was a huge success! The students learned about basic circuitry in science class and made an LED light circuit board in math class! The process started by having the students write their own linear word problems. Although it may seem like a difficult task, the students came to solutions beautifully and had the opportunity to engage in something relevant! Once they wrote their problems, they created an equation. Next, students displayed their data in a function table and a graph. They used the LEDs to illuminate the solutions to their word problems. Everyone was so engaged, learned a ton, and had a lot of fun! In the spring, these students will be completing a STEM integration project using custom tracks built with the help of our STEM teacher, utilizing Hot Wheels cars and slope. The goal of the project is to have the students predict a stopping point for their car based on the slope of the track with added weight to the vehicle. We’re excited to be testing this project this year with our students and hope to share it next year with the other eighth-grade teachers.

In what ways have you been able to engage members of your school, local community, or other STEM Teaching Fellows?

One way we engaged with our local community this year was attending the Atlantic County 4-H STEM EXPO. We had the opportunity to learn more about local STEM activities and resources and meet many other professionals passionate about engaging students in STEM. We connected with a local robotics team coach, as well as Rutgers University STEM outreach faculty.
During one of our district professional development days, we had the opportunity to participate in an EdCamp. This gave us a platform to talk about Module 2 with colleagues from the other middle school in our district. We gave them all our resources and shared our experiences with them. It was very productive!
In addition, as part of our sixth-grade STEM integration project, we invited engineers from the FAA to speak about careers in STEM, their experiences in their careers, and their work projects. They also fielded student questions. It was exciting to learn from the engineers that they also have a community partner initiative as part of their professional development. Their goal is to reach out to schools and other educational institutions to create learning opportunities and partnerships. Our team has also started up a Fernwood STEM Facebook page to reach out to colleagues, students and parents with the goal of sharing exciting STEM/STEAM projects the students are engaging in. This page is showcases all of the amazing STEM that happens in our school each week.

Senior Fellows Update
Senior Fellows Collaborative Grants Program

Thanks to all who attended our Help Sessions for the Senior Fellows Collaborative Grants program! Each Fellow brought thoughtful questions to the table, and we heard about some exciting collaborations already in the works. The first application cycle ends next month on April 9, so be sure to finish up those proposals. We look forward to reviewing all the project ideas!
More information about the grant program and instructions for how to submit proposals can be found here in our Request for Proposals (RFP). If you still have clarification questions, please reach out to Nikki Gerardo at Proposals can be submitted until 5 pm local time on April 9 in the Grants Submissions folder of the Senior Fellows course on Schoology. 
Ideas Worth Sharing Webinar Series

We will wrap up our first series of webinars with one final presentation coming your way in May! Jillian Sargent will share her ideas about how to host “STEM Night Success” on Thursday, May 3 at 7 p.m. EST. Jillian has helped host STEM Nights for both a smaller Catholic school and large public school with over 1,100 students, so she’s sure to have some diverse tips to help in planning your school’s future STEM Nights.
If you are looking to host your first STEM Night or refresh your current STEM Night stores with new ideas, this webinar is for you! RSVP using the form found here. Up to 10 spots will be available for Fellows and five spots for members of our wider STEM community, including prospective Trustey Fellows.
Senior Fellows Feature

March Madness started early this year at St. Junipero Serra's, Sports-Themed, 3rd Annual STEAM Night. Teachers shared their love of learning by engaging the nearly 700 guests with teacher-led STEAM activities located around the campus. Students and families enjoyed Ping Pong Physics, Marshmallow Sling Shots, Laundry Basket Skee Ball, Archery, Car Ramp Race, Origami Football Challenge, and so much more. Grade Level Interdisciplinary STEAM projects were also on display from grades Preschool-8. STEAM education at SJSC promotes 21st-century learning and provides opportunities for students to exercise skills in critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, communication, collaboration, and time management. Way to pave the way as Senior Fellows, Serra Catholic School!

Fellows in the Field

This year for Catholic Schools Week, the Bishop Baraga Catholic School STEAM team held a bridge building competition for the middle school students! During this three-hour period of time, students were introduced to three different types of bridges and the forces that act upon them. In their teams, students were led through the Engineering Design Process in which they were able to design, build, test, re-design, and re-test their bridges. It was a wonderful opportunity for them to think like engineers and apply science and math concepts to their designs. To help communicate what they'd learned about building bridges, a "student showcase" was held so that younger students could watch the final testing phase and hear from the middle schoolers about how they had used the EDP to build and improve their bridge designs! Feedback from the students about this STEM integration project was very positive, with several kids saying that it was challenging but very fun! Great work BBCS!

Our Lady of Perpetual Help is participating for the second year in Code Rush, CodeMonkey's national coding competition! Last year with thousands of students, hundreds of teams and over 35 states participating, OLPH took sixth place. This year, Code of the Wolverines has four returning students that have stepped up to lead the team as they work together towards a shared goal of placing again in the top 10. The entire school is cheering them on and it is amazing to see all of the excitement around code! Way to go OLPH!

April 2018 

  • Coaching Cycle #4
  • Senior Fellows Collaborative Grants Program's RFP Due

May 2018

  • Spring Data Collection
  • Ideas Worth Sharing Webinar
Highlighted Resources

Science: Can't learn enough about science education? Get your fix on the go with the Lab out Loud podcast funded by NSTA.

Engineering: Looking for ways to engage middle school students in engineering after school? Check out these free resources from EiE!

Mathematics: Searching for ways to engage students in mathematics activities with rigor and coherence? Learn more here!


107 Carole Sandner Hall |  Notre Dame, IN 46556 
(574) 631-3165  | | @STEMatND

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