Mentoring in STEM: The Village Educating the Child by Enhancing STEM Educational Experiences

January is National Mentoring Month, when awareness to mentoring is brought to the general public and mentoring organizations are highlighted. Mentoring is critical component to a young person’s development. Mentoring provides children with positive, caring adults in their lives that can provide guidance as well as academic support. Children who have positive role models tend to excel while in school and do great things as adults.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is an area where our children don’t have enough positive mentors and role models. The academic achievement for K-12 students nationally in math and science are low even with all the resources in recent years being poured into math and science education. There are several reason for lack of achievement in math and science. One of the major reasons is there is no continuum of learning between classroom and home; so students don’t have enough outside of classroom learning experiences. Students aren’t engaged in enough hands on activities in these subject areas, therefore they don’t get fun learning experiences. Students learn better when they are having fun, plus hands on activities allow teachers to address all the learning styles of the students in their classrooms. However, school districts have constraints with their math and science curriculum. Therefore it is important that STEM professionals connect with our youth both inside and outside of the classroom to enhance the math and science educational experiences for our youth.

When STEM professionals, graduate and undergraduate students serve as mentors for youth by providing academic support it promotes academic achievement in math and science. The students get an opportunity to review content in a smaller group setting than in their classroom. Reviewing content either one on one or in a small group gives students an opportunity ask questions that they may not have an opportunity to or be afraid to ask in a larger setting. The mentor can provide another method for explaining a concept that can make it easier for the student to understand. Mentors can also give students strategies to improve their study and test preparation skills.

STEM professionals can find opportunities to mentor to provide academic support in math and science by volunteering directly at the schools. Educators are always happy to receive volunteers and don’t get enough volunteers that are able to provide assistance with math and science. Just contact the school, tell them your schedule and how you want to help and I’m sure they will welcome you into the school with open arms. If your schedule doesn’t permit you to volunteer during the school day, there are plenty of after-school programs hosted by community organizations that would love for you to provide support in these areas. They key is for you to connect with students and give them the confidence and skills to get them achieving in math and science.

The images that students have of what a STEM professional is, isn’t very positive. Most kids think that STEM professionals are old white men. K-12 students need to know that there are STEM professionals of all ages, genders, ethnicities and backgrounds. But most importantly, they need to see that pursuing a STEM career is a possibility for them by meeting someone that they can related to that is in the STEM disciplines. Therefore it is important for STEM professionals and K-12 students to connect. Most kids don’t even know that pursuing a STEM career is a option because they have never a STEM professional. We can’t create the pipeline for the future STEM workforce, if our youth don’t know about know about these careers. We have to make STEM more visible.

Mentoring as a form of career exploration can take place in any form that works for the mentor and the protege. Career exploration is simple exposing students to the career options that are available to them. The exploration involves defining the career, what a person in that career does and how they can pursue the career. The mentoring can take place in a one time setting such as a career fair or career day at a school or local community organization. It can take place in a setting where you bring children to your workplace for a tour. With older children it can take place by providing internship opportunities for youth at your workplace. The conversation can be one time or continuous, but children need to start learning about STEM careers and how to pursue them.

The Best Educational Experiences in Washington, DC

Educational travel can give teachers and administrators a boost in exciting many students about their academic lessons. Travel brings curriculum to life while teaching lessons that students will need throughout their lives. As a former middle school principal I found that educational travel goes hand-in-hand with offering a total educational program to young adolescents. This is even more important today as teachers and principals are facing increased pressure to prepare students to pass mandated academic tests.

During my years teaching in middle school, I learned that young adolescents can gain a multitude of invaluable experiences from travel, learning both the information they will be able to apply in the classroom and skills that will help them develop personally. Unfortunately, some young people will never be able to take educational tours without involvement with their school. So, middle school educators can contribute to a young adolescent’s complete education when they include education travel in their program.

Once you’ve decided to include travel in your student’s education, there are important plans and decisions that will affect the overall success of their travel experience. This article focuses on selecting the best educational venues in Washington, DC for a class or grade level trip.

The best time to consider such a trip is during seventh or eighth grade when the middle school social studies curriculum focuses on U.S. history. An educational trip to Washington, DC coinciding with this year can provide substantial benefits to both the individual and the school as a whole.

All student groups that visit Washington, DC should tour the White House and the US Capitol. Their educational links to the classroom are countless. It’s important to note that the popularity of these two sites coupled with the recent increase in national security now require that an appointment must be prescheduled by a Senator or State Representative.

Next, I recommend visiting as many of the following as possible:

 Ford’s Theater and the Peterson House

 Arlington National Cemetery

 Smithsonian Museums

 Washington Monument

 Lincoln Monument

 Jefferson Memorial

 Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial

 Iwo Jima Memorial

 Korean War Memorial

 Vietnam Veterans Memorial

 World War II Memorial

All of these sites have strong ties to the social studies curriculum and, best of all do not charge an admissions fee. Once you have decided to include them in a travel itinerary, the key is to make sure the students receive the strongest possible educational connections during the actual visit.

You can easily increase the educational value of the visit by using a reputable student tour provider like Travel Adventures that specializes in educational travel to plan your trip. To begin with, their experience will help prepare an itinerary that sequences the stops so that the students are not overwhelmed with information. Their experience will also present you with strategies for planning effective group visits. I strongly recommend you ask the travel provider about adding Washington, DC guides when visiting the monuments and memorials. Their historical knowledge base will only enhance the educational experience.

Another outstanding educational venue is Arlington National Cemetery. In addition to visiting the John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Challenger Astronaut Memorials, your student tour provider can schedule a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns. This ceremony adds depth to the educational value of the visit and allows those students selected for the ceremony the rare opportunity of interacting with an Army Honor Guard member.

A visit to the U.S. Holocaust Museum can be extremely educational especially if the students have studied this era in American history and/or read The Diary of Anne Frank in English class. The museum is self-guided. The emotional impact of the tour, coupled with their collection of newsprint, historical video and news reporting provides an outstanding educational experience for all visitors.

A student trip to Washington, DC should also include a visit to Mount Vernon – the estate of George Washington. The new Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center, and a tour of the beautifully restored estate, outer buildings and the grounds have strong educational value.

Finally, I recommend that student groups traveling to Washington, D.C. schedule a cultural activity. Exposing young people to the arts and culture is invaluable to the overall development of the individual. One of the most popular activities is attending a theatrical performance at one of the area dinner theaters or a performance at the Kennedy Center. The theaters schedule age appropriate productions like “Beauty and the Beast or Fiddler on the Roof” to help make this opportunity both educational and entertaining.

In summary, educational travel to Washington, DC can add an important dimension to the total learning program at your school. I strongly recommend that you consider adding travel to the curriculum and visiting as many of the aforementioned venues as possible for the best educational value.

Student Travel in Berlin – The Five Most Educational Experiences in the City

Packed with art galleries and museums, and with tangible relics of its recent history everywhere you look, Berlin is one of the most culturally engaging cities in the world. Which is just one of the reasons why so many language students choose to do a German course in Berlin.

With opportunities for students to learn more about this fascinating city literally around every corner, it can all seem a bit overwhelming at first. Here, then, is a quick roundup of five of the most educational Berlin experiences.

1. Deutsches Historisches Museum

Want to learn about the history of Germany? Where else would you go but the German Historical Museum, then? Appropriately positioned in the very heart of the city, on Unter den Linden, the Deutsches Historisches Museum is an educational titan and an absolute must for any student on a German course in Berlin.

With over 8,000 artifacts and historical objects scattered across two floors, the permanent collection is a thing of wonder. Covering the last 2,000 years of German history in the most thorough way, it’s the perfect place in which to lose yourself on a rainy day in the city.

2. Berlin Zoo

Why, when Berlin art galleries and museums are so remarkable, would you even consider going to a zoo? The answer lies in the fact that Berlin Zoo holds the largest collection of species of any zoo in the world.

A little to the west of the Tiergarten, it’s a fantastic day out that provides a remarkable insight into an almost impossibly wide variety of animals. There’s even the opportunity to catch a glimpse (through his adoring crowds) of local celebrity Knut the Polar Bear!

3. Gemaldegalerie

The Gemaldegalerie is to art galleries in Berlin, what the Deutsches Historisches Museum is to Berlin museums – the crowning glory. And what makes it so special isn’t merely the array of staggering works (one of the most comprehensive in Europe) from artists like Vermeer, Raphael, Rubens, Titian, Rembrandt and Caravaggio.

No, what makes it so special is the remarkable way in which the gallery is laid out. You get a real sense of order, vision and, as you wander from room to room, the sensation that collections both work in isolation, and still contribute to a wonderfully unified whole.

4. Topography of Terror

Standing in the former cells of the Gestapo Headquarters (now, mercifully, exposed to the elements) and flanked by one of the last remaining, sullen stretches of the Berlin Wall, ‘enjoy’ isn’t the word for the Topography of Terror.

However, it is, nevertheless, an essential educational experience in Berlin. What it does is usher you along a fascinating journey through one of the most terrible sagas in history, and chillingly lays out the often curiously banal face of human wickedness.

5. Coffee in Kreuzberg

Should A Think Tank Consider Educational Experience on the Application?

As most folks realize there are some very intelligent folks behind the scenes advising decision makers in corporations, governments, and NGOs. Some of these groups call themselves Think Tanks, which is and ambiguous term in many regards, I mean what exactly is a Think Tank, does anyone really know, and does the dictionary really do the definition justice?

Turns out the answer is no, no, they don’t and no it doesn’t. You see, there are so many different types of think tanks, many with specific agendas and mission statements, with so many different solutions to provide and stated objectives – you almost cannot categorize any one of them.

Now then, with that known, how does anyone who applies stand a chance at predicting what might be on that application if they decide they are an achieved individual with superb intellect and credentials? That’s a good question, and as the coordinator for a think tank, a small one, which operates on online, I can tell you it’s not an easy question.

Not long ago, I was asked a question about our application process – Why don’t you have educational experience as a question on the think tank application? That’s a decent question and interestingly enough, I’d never considered it. So, I stated; regarding your question about “educational experience” – you do bring up a good point, and it was not my intention to offend anyone there, perhaps that should be changed?

You see, I think we also need to consider the non-academics too, as not to offend them. For instance, a champion of industry may have spent 27-years working 15-17 hour days, a literal creative genius game changer, and thus, would have the equivalent of 5 PhDs – except they don’t offer such, and a good portion of those folks may have left school to pursue their work in the real world.

Indeed, I also explained another point, because coming from that side of the fence, well, you can see why I missed the inherent need for those with “educational experience” to have their own personal column to fill on the application. Still, he was correct, it probably should be changed, and yes, to his point it is; “Interesting” – not only that it wasn’t there, but that his mind picked it up. And so, I thanked him for that thought.

Maybe this is something that all think tanks need to think about, and be sure to thank their applicants and say; “thank you for being patient on the application time, and thank you for providing this information.” Okay so, this is some relevant advice on a very important topic for Think Tanks which wish to grow strong. Indeed, I hope you will please consider all this.

Creating the Best Math and Science Educational Experiences for Youth

In the almost 15 years since I’ve graduated from high school I’ve notice the major changes in how children are educated. I feel like I’m not old enough to be say when I was a kid things were different, but I’m saying that on a regular basis. When I was a child, parents and educators seemed to work together more to provide a quality education for children. There were learning experiences both at home and in school. I have memories of conducting science experiments both at home and in school as early as elementary school. However, I am realizing that kids today don’t have the same opportunity that I did during my K-12 education.

All students don’t have an equal opportunity to have a great science educational experience. I have been spending time in schools and am realizing that kids aren’t engaged in enough hands on science or science that is relevant to them that make them interested in science. I was having a conversation with a 5th grader and he was talking about what he learned in science class that day. What they learned bored me to death, they were talking about a scientist that is dead and technology that is obsolete. I know that science history is an important part of science, but kids should be learning something that is relevant and current and about scientists that are alive today. But thing that I was grateful was that at least this student was learning science. I’m always curious how the state science and mathematics standards are chosen. Is the curriculum team made up of a diversity of math and science educators and professionals? Do they select the material based that provide the students with a strong foundation as well as engage them in the subjects? Do they select a curriculum that all school districts will be able to implement, including those districts and schools with limited resources? Do they consider if the curriculum is academically preparing them for post secondary education and pursuing careers in these subjects? I believe that a strong curriculum should include all these elements to ensure the academic success of our children in math and science.

In addition, most state curriculum the core subjects are language arts, math, social studies and science. However the priority of instructional time in our schools, especially in elementary school isn’t always focused on equal preparation in all subject areas. There are studies that show that elementary students don’t always get an adequate amount of science as a part of their curriculum. There are various reasons for this; the main reason is that not enough resources are put into science education because science is rarely on the standardized test that has become a critical part of education. Another reason is not all elementary teachers feel comfortable enough to teach their students science. With elementary school being the foundation for learning in all subject areas, if there is no strong foundation for science how will kids excel when they go to middle and high school. This doesn’t create an environment for our kids to excel in science, let alone pursue careers in these fields.

In order for us to provide the best educational experience for our youth, we must hold the educational system accountable for ensuring that all subject areas have equal instructional time. We shouldn’t give more subject areas more instructional time simply because our students will be tested in those subjects. The best way we can hold them in accountable is to build a relationship with the educational system at all levels; the individual schools, school district and state department of education. We want to make sure that our children are academically prepared to enter the future workforce, which will be an educated workforce.