February 17, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

STEM Is Busting Out All Over | Consider the Source

MarcOn March 6, Sue Bartle, an Erie 2-CC BOCES system director, and I spoke at a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Forward conference near Buffalo, NY. It was a lively day filled with presentations and discussions. As we wrapped up, Michael Cambria, the Director of the Buffalo School Library System, came over to tell me about an exciting development in his city. As you may know, the Buffalo school system not only faces academic challenges, the school board is also deeply divided. And yet, Buffalo is taking a spirited leap into STEM. Indeed, the whole city is devoting the week of March 14-20 to STEM events. Public schools are partnering with museums, libraries, universities, businesses, and laboratories, and even the city’s hockey team, the Buffalo Sabres, will be involved in the activities.

Here are just a few of the happenings; on Saturday, March 14, more than 200 students will demonstrate and discuss their science projects in the Buffalo Museum of Science, while at the University of Buffalo, “Tech Savvy Girls” will have a chance to explore a full-day of STEM workshops. On Tuesday, “Genome Day,” 450 seventh and eighth grade students will extract DNA samples and learn about genetics and health. Wednesday’s “Science Exploration Day” involves 1200 sophomores and juniors, and Thursday’s “Science of Hockey” brings 600 sixth graders to the Harbor Center to unveil the mysteries of sports science.

I haven’t included all the events, and of course, there will be occasions that give platforms to important politicians and offer thanks to sponsors. From what I have listed, though, I bet you share my sense that this is a wonderful step for the city. That the activities are everywhere and everyone has been encouraged to join in—to learn, to explore, to see themselves in STEM—is more significant than any single event. The city is excited and energized. Many students are likely to find activities targeted to their interests, or celebrating their achievements, and all the sponsors—whether businesses or schools—recognize how important it is to make STEM a big tent event and welcome all to enter. This reminds me of another science fair that I attended in Madison, WI, and I suspect this is an idea that’s spreading. No matter where you are, you might want to begin assembling partners for your own STEM-fest.

But let’s say you prefer to start small, in your own school building. At the Buffalo conference, Sue and I passed on a suggestion that was given to me by a librarian whose name I admit I have forgotten. He suggested that one way to feature STEM and to show how STEM and the humanities are linked, would be to turn April 15 into (Leonardo) da Vinci Day. Every grade could find something about this Renaissance man’s life and career to celebrate. Grade by grade students would see evidence of da Vinci’s accomplishments in drawing, painting, science, technology, engineering, anatomy, and so on. In effect, the day would become a mini-STEAM-fest (adding the A for Art to STEM) filled with creative energy.

Whether you want to tackle something big, as Buffalo is doing, or smaller, STEM is busting out all over.

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Marc Aronson About Marc Aronson

Marc Aronson is a Rutgers University lecturer in the School of Communication and Information and the author of many notable nonfiction titles for children and young adults including, The Skull in the Rock, winner of the 2013 Subaru Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His book The Griffin and the Scientist (with Adrienne Mayor) will be published in April 2014. He was the first recipient of the Robert F. Sibert medal from the American Library Association for excellence in nonfiction writing for youth.

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  1. Unfortunstely we have a very divided school board that I am not sure would approve of such an activity. Just maybe I will be able to convince a Middle or elementary school to have ATEM day. Wish me Lucik I think this a wonderful idea.

    • marc aronson says:

      It is unfortunate when personal or political divisions get in the way of planning and programming that could excite so many young people. Good luck and keep us informed.