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Project Based-Learning as a Tool to Boost Executive Function Skills

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Tuesday, August 14, 2018

steamworks at landmark high school

By Carl Gasowski

Walking into the STEAMworks Technology Department in the school where I teach, one might see a student working on a computer-controlled wood carving, or perhaps constructing and programming a drone, or maybe even composing and recording music. Aside from the common workshop and studio space that these students share, they also benefit from the experience of using hands-on, project based-learning as a means to develop and understand their thought process.

Five-Phase Production Process

In the STEAMworks Technology Department students move through the development of each project in five phases. They start by identifying what they want to learn about, including skills and content. Next, they brainstorm project ideas, select an idea to pursue, and begin the process of planning. During this phase, students are encouraged to sequence the steps needed to complete their project while researching the materials they may need and anticipating potential challenges. It’s a phase that can teach both the importance of simplicity and the nuances of complexity. The planning and design phase accounts for the bulk of their project and is ripe with opportunities for conversations about their thought process, strategies, and design choices. 

After completing their plans, students begin to visualize the fabrication of their products as they move into the prototyping or drafting phase. They might build a smaller model, test a concept for an individual component, or practice a technique before they move onto the building phase. During the building phase students get to see their ideas come to life. They can identify where their plan was successful and where it may have fallen short. Finally, at the completion of a project, it’s all about evaluating the process and the result. If additional drafts are to be made, then students assess where to make improvements.

Tangible Growth

Aside from planning and time management, moving through the whole process teaches patience, productivity, and perseverance. As an instructor on the sidelines of the process, the success and progression of student skills are tangible in the products that the students create, their awareness of the necessary steps, and their approach to challenges and obstacles.

About the Author

Carl Gasowski is entering his 14th year as a teacher in the Science and Technology Department at Landmark High School.]]>

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Tags:  Executive Functioning hands-on learning innovation learning science STEAM STEM technology

Why We Need More Girls in STEM

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Friday, September 23, 2016 Byline:  by Melissa Davidson

girl in science class STEM

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.”

—President Barack Obama, February 2013

Not every girl in school is interested in STEM, but there’s a new generation of dynamic young girls who will eventually pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Developing this interest and talent at a young age is crucial, just as much as instilling confidence and self-awareness. Strides are being made to improve educational opportunities, yet girls are still poorly represented in STEM classes.

This translates into a job market where only 1 in 7 engineers are female, only 27% of all computer science jobs are held by women, and women have seen no employment growth in STEM jobs since 2000, according to Forbes. It’s a lost economic opportunity for women, given that a general engineer makes between $70,000 and $100,00 a year.

Why aren’t more girls interested in STEM subjects? What can be done about it? Let’s take a look.

Introduce at a younger age

Schools that supply STEM programming and encourage elementary- and secondary-school girls to participate can shift the dynamic away from the field being a boys’ club. There are a variety of reasons boys are the main participants in science fairs, and it’s not just because they are the only ones with an interest in science.

Projects involving real-world applications and experiences will also foster a better understanding of what’s out there in the job world. There are many resources available to teachers now to help facilitate the process.

Mentoring opportunities

Exposure to positive female STEM role models at a younger age will have a dramatic impact on whether girls pursue careers in tech, science, and math down the road, according to Karen Horting, CEO and Executive Director at the Society of Women Engineers.

One-on-one mentoring programs and shadowing opportunities are also becoming more prevalent in schools. Groups such as the National Girls Collaborative Project work with public- and private-sector organizations and institutions interested in expanding girls’ participation in STEM.

Students - male and female - want to feel like they belong in whatever setting they’re in. If girls don’t have that sense of belonging, they may choose to drop the science or math class and pursue a different career path.

Bust the stereotypes

Biases still exist that math and science jobs are typically for males, while nursing and secretarial jobs are more geared toward females. Pop culture perpetuates the stereotypes with “nerdy” male computer programmers. Girls now are at least seeing more women portraying doctors, lawyers, and top government officials on the big and small screen.

The paucity of women is not only a social issue. It has economic repercussions as well. There will be 8 million STEM-related jobs in the U.S. by 2018 - jobs that we will not be able to fill domestically unless we can produce more STEM graduates, according to a George Washington University webinar discussing America’s STEM crisis.

Forty percent of today’s jobs require STEM competencies and almost all of the 30 fastest-growing jobs over the next decade will require these skills, but presently only a quarter of women are represented in these fields. The next generation of scientists and engineers need to include a wider range of talent, including more women and minorities.  

About the Author:

Melissa Davidson

Melissa Davidson is a full-time freelance writer with a B.A. in Journalism from the the University of Montana. In a former life, she was a newspaper reporter for several publications throughout the west. When she's not hovering over a keyboard writing about health, wellness, and social issues, she can be found riding and running on mountain trails with her dog, Romeo, in full pursuit.    



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Tags:  engineering engineering jobs Landmark School math real-world applications science science fair STEM technology women in the workforce
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