Written By: Reagan Flowers, PhD
The first day of summer is fast approaching. Schools across the U.S. are preparing to downsize for the summer months and are re-tooling for the upcoming school year. There are students preparing for summer camps, adventures, and vacations; while others are preparing for whatever the day brings.
During the academic year, every student enrolled in a school excelled at learning something because of their teachers, mentors, peers, siblings, and/or family members.
I find summer to be a perfect time to add to students’ personal stories of achievement with experiences that add value and propels them towards what will come next in their learning journey.
Because students do not choose the life they are born into, making available summer STEM programs aid them in choosing paths, and seizing opportunities that will make their collective hopes and dreams a reality. It is important that our students understand that each of their paths are different. Their experiences are not all equal or equitable and as a result the road to accomplishing their goals could be longer or shorter and filled with challenges or lucky breaks.
No matter what some might think, summer for students offers a window of time that should be filled with learning experiences that are positive, enlightening, inspiring, challenging, engaging, fun, and empowering.
Let’s face it, whether we are working to achieve success with creating awesome memories or being a scholar, it will only be achieved through demanding work, commitment, focus, determination, endurance, gratitude, humility, thoughtfulness, failure, and a good balance of knowing when not to take yourself too seriously.
STEM summer experiences aid students in taking closer steps towards achieving the life they hope and dream for themselves. It is important that students are directed during the summer to not limit themselves, set grand expectations, and to push beyond urges to spend time on activities that will cause the valuable time of summer to slip away. Resulting in having nothing good to show for their time.
The learning gains achieved during the summer months helps to remove barriers that limit opportunities, restrict exposure, and stifles competitiveness. Students that do their part as scholars, thoughtful leaders, and examples of what is good in the world, continue to make advancements and eventually take hold of futures better than what many of them inherited at birth.
All students can have awesome STEM summers whether enrolling in a camp or assuming a curious, creative, and innovative mindset that leads to STEM discoveries at home, in their neighborhoods, and city. I hope that within all our communities, we continue to be deliberate and unwavering in providing as many STEM summer learning experiences for children that their brains can hold.
Written By: Reagan Flowers, PhD
To surpass academic achievement goals, to help greater numbers of our children break the chains of generational poverty, we must be intentional and deliberate in cultivating talent that has the capacity to take advantage of economic opportunities that are available in STEM.
We do not choose the life we are born into, but we do choose the paths that makes our collective hopes and dreams a reality. Our paths are all different, and for some, the road is much longer and the challenges are greater.
Choosing the correct path can be challenging especially when there are no Google Maps to point you in the direction of opportunities, when you never receive invitations to experience the world of possibilities, and when the standards by which you have been measured have been watered down so much, until you have developed a false sense of preparedness and competitiveness.
Living Smarter is the only way to rise above unjust education systems that continually leaves Black and Hispanic students behind their White and Asian peers.
C-STEM, Communication, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, is what gets young people to work with us, to become self-reliant, to do their part as scholars, to be thoughtful leaders, and to be examples of what is good in the world.
By 2042, minorities will begin to cross the threshold to becoming the majority. Many urban schools serve majority minority students. In these schools, particularly with native Black students, common trends you will find are:
- Low gains in math and reading proficiency
- School ratings at the bottom and they remain at the bottom for three or more years
- Lower enrollment in Advanced Placement Courses
- Lower numbers taking the ACT/SAT
- And, Higher incidences of out of school suspension than their white peers
When it comes to top-scoring schools in math and reading, minority students on free or reduced lunch are less likely to enroll and they experience double digit achievement gaps. For many minority students, particularly native Black students, many of their futures mirror their inheritance at birth.
To get different outcomes, we must start early, at the foundational level of education developing students to be superb communicators, critical thinkers, problem-solvers, innovators, and creators. STEM provides the environment to do just that. STEM is a way of life and allows students to apply classroom learning to the world around them. It leads to futures as entrepreneurs and to careers that pay dividends towards achieving economic empowerment and a wealth base that strengthens families and rebuilds communities.
Data has shown us that more than 50% of individuals who have ever been arrested and more than 30% of individuals on welfare did not attend pre-school.
These are desperate times in public education. The exceptionalism in leadership and student achievement cannot be found in many urban schools as we prepare for more school closures and take overs. And the alternatives given for some school take overs will not provide the innovation needed to achieve the academic gains we hope for.
To meet the demands of the fast-changing high skills technologically driven world, Public schools must have assistance. Overwhelmingly, data continues to report enormous challenges with tapping into the potential and capacity of minority students and in raising our Nation’s overall academic competitiveness.
The lack of innovation and the lag-time by which schools access current technology and instructional tools and resources, causes our students to fall further behind and under prepares them for life and work. Many low skill jobs that were once done by humans have been completely taken over by robots and machines. There are more high skilled jobs, particularly in markets heavily supported by automation, artificial intelligence, and cyber security.
C-STEM helps schools innovate how instruction and learning happens. All of the services C-STEM provides are working for the good of students by helping them achieve academically and gain access and exposure to opportunities. It is incumbent upon us all to be intentional and thoughtful in immersing our future leaders in STEM.
Written by: Reagan Flowers, PhD
When we look at were we are currently with Women in STEM, data shows that we must begin in elementary school with getting girls interested in science. The gender gap widens in middle and high school, 3% to an 11% gap with boys demonstrating more interest than girls.
Some recommended best practices with getting girls more interested in STEM disciplines/careers includes:
- Providing opportunities for girls to experience STEM as early as Pre Kindergarten to start building their confidence and to allow them to be wowed by what they can do and see the impact of applying what they know to something meaningful.
- Use of inspiring messages and images that are not demeaning and don’t exacerbate gender biases or imbalances.
- The joint venture between AT&T Foundry for Connected Health and the Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute in Houston.
- How start-up Aira and AT&T helped a Boston Marathon runner
- Jessica’s advice on curiosity leading to career opportunities.
Sponsored by Halliburton.
STEMCAST Introduction: Urban Nexus
Welcome to the CSTEM Urban Nexus Competition where Everyone is an Artist & an Engineer! Dr. Reagan Flowers provides us with an overview of the 2016 Competition for Pre K through 12th grade students nationally. Student’s experience STEM using robotics, civil engineering, computer programming, innovation, film making, photography, mural, and sculpture. Listen Now!
Trisha Frederick, PE, Utility Engineer for Costello Engineering, a Civil Engineering consulting firm based in Houston, TX. Trisha outlines the path to engineering from obtaining an educational standpoint and career development. Engineering is the study of failure that creates solutions. Listen Now!
The America COMPETES Act was passed in 2007, with an emphasis on technology and science, in an effort to promote and create opportunities for educational excellence. A reauthorization of the law was enacted a new reform of the law, dubbed the “Student Success Act”. The proposed law would ban federal involvement in determining failing schools, eliminate required federal benchmarks for academic achievement, allow federal dollars for disadvantaged or disabled students to follow the pupil sort of like a voucher, and reduce the amount of federal dollars Title I school districts receive.
It is easy to see how many in the education reform crowd would support the idea, as it creates a pathway for students to leave failing schools and pursue their education at a school of their choice. The unintended consequence of such a policy would be a shift where public and charter schools will be competing to enroll students who qualify for those funds as a means of boosting the funds they receive. So while the schools benefit from the revenue that accompanies these students, the pupil does not necessarily receive the education they deserve, rather they end up with the same academic achievement outcomes they are experiencing today.
Not only will such a policy inevitably perpetuate widening of the achievement gap, it also stands to increase the disparity in public schools serving high numbers of economically disadvantaged students. The diminished learning opportunities will further bolster the inequity in urban vs. suburban education systems, and will further accelerate the closure of inner-city public schools, replacing them with charter and federally subsidized private schools.
The bigger concern for many public school advocates is the potential for the proposed Student Success Act to be the precursor for the evisceration of public school systems, in lieu of a further shift towards charter and privately run school systems. Most public school advocates readily acknowledge that there are good and bad public schools, just as there are good and bad charter, private, and religious schools out there. One thing we know for certain is without Title I Federal funding, public schools serving high percentages of economically disadvantaged students would be greatly harmed by any reduction in the funding they receive. While many have been unsuccessful in their mission of providing equitable learning opportunities for their students, to withdraw funding at this point would only further turn a bad situation worse.
A better approach today would be to maintain Title I Federal funding based on the present formula, while implementing accountability measures that are meaningful and effective. Federal accountability guidelines should focus on improving early childhood education, reduce the emphasis on testing, tie teacher performance pay to innovative practices linked to student success, and create data share appendages to foster identification and sharing of best practices between the public and private educational complex.
Over the weekend, I found myself engaging in several conversations regarding the unfortunate loss of life. It was extremely sad news to hear that a child lost his life as a result of playing with an airsoft-type pellet gun by a police officer in Cleveland, Ohio. There were many errors at play that led to this unfortunate incident. The obvious is poor communication. The “C” in C-STEM. Poor communication on part of the pellet gun manufacturer, 911 dispatcher, police officer, and parents of the 12 year old boy.
It is seemingly unreasonable to not hold manufacturers of pellet guns that look like real guns accountable for the lives that are unknowingly placed in danger. A news channel covering the story has shared that the type of pellet gun the child had in his possession generally has an orange tip at the end of the barrel indicating that it is not a real gun. I would have to argue that such a minimal indicator is not good enough. Why not an orange safety tip and orange handle? Why not regulate so that pellet guns cannot be manufactured in black or chrome?
The news reported that the orange indicator was not present on the pellet gun and according to experts made it look no different than a real gun. There must be some sort of liability on part of the manufactures designing, building, and selling pellet guns in stores for children. Many of us have purchased toys that have hazardous warning labels on them. I am curious to know if there was a hazardous label on the pellet gun that provided a warning regarding the dangers of removing the orange tip as it could easily be mistaken as a real gun by law enforcement; pointing or aiming the pellet gun at another person or living thing may alarm people around you and place your life at risk; and/or carrying the pellet gun as a weapon may cause someone to feel threatened.
Many of our public servants work hard at developing policy to regulate gun control with NRA. I think it is time for our public servants to work just as hard to regulate pellet gun control with manufacturers. There is an organization called “Mothers Against Drunk Drivers,” and I think this is a fine time to start “Mothers Against Pellet Gun Manufacturers”. It is time that the manufacturers effectively communicate the proper message with the use of pellet guns and design them such that there is no question that it is not a real gun.
I cannot stress the importance of developing the communication skills of children. Because if we fail to do so, they grow-up to be adults that lack effective communication skills. As part of this unfortunate situation, there was a dispatcher that failed to effectively communicate the alleged situation to the officer as it was reported by the 911 phone caller. The individual that made the 911 call obviously wanted the police to know that there was a possibility that the gun could be a fake. However, the dispatcher failed to convey that information to the police officer which heightened the severity of the situation. The dispatcher did not ask any clarifying questions of the 911 phone caller as to why it was believed that the gun could possibly be a fake or if the child was pointing the gun directly at people or if there were other people in the area that were obviously at risk. In the police officers response, it seemed completely evident from viewing the video that the officer did not communicate effectively with the child to gain control of what was perceived to be a threatening situation by the officer. Not to mentioned that the officer perceived a 12 year old boy to be a 20 year old man. As it relates to the parent(s) that purchased the pellet gun for the child, I am curious as to how they communicated with the child the proper way and place to use the pellet gun. As it relates to the school the child attended, I wonder what type of social emotional and character building activities/courses/programs/learning was offered to instill the level of discernment, character, thoughtfulness, and consideration that was needed to help him regulate his behaviors, be conscious of his environment, and aware of how people might perceive his actions.
In closing, I sincerely believe that it takes A Village to raise a child, I am equally curious as to what prevented the person who made the 911 phone call from making an attempt to speak with the boy about his public actions and handling of the gun, after all the 911 caller did not sound frightened, panicked, and even indicated that the gun was probably fake. Further, what prevented the caller from sizing up the situation and exploring options to intervene? I am not saying that anyone should put their life in danger, I am just wondering if the 911 caller ever considered becoming The Village for the child. It is obvious that he needed one.
Engineers are in high demand throughout the world. From biomedical engineers to nuclear engineers. These careers require innovative creative thinkers to solve problems that we have throughout the world. They require higher levels of knowledge in math and science. We need to motivate our students to seek careers that are in high demand by encouraging them early on and doing so as they matriculate through the Pre K-12th grade trajectory to higher education. Their experiences in school need to be relevant, fun, innovative, balanced, exploratory, and interactive. Mostly, they must understand the importance of what they learn and how the information they have can be applied in the world. Children are naturally curious, so why not provide them the tools they need to expound on their natural curiosity. Everything starts from a single idea that you build on with intended outcomes. In many cases, a single idea yields dividends that would not have otherwise availed themselves, had you not taken action. Children are our future and they depend on us to prepare them to answer questions of the unknown and unforeseeable future.